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Flashbulb Memories, What Were You Doing On September 11, 2001?

Do you remember where you were on that September day in 2001? Some people can remember where they were with such clarity. These memories are known as “Flashbulb Memories”. They occur when an individual’s history meets History in the making. There is not a lot of study on this phenomenon but some of these memories are associated with events such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, John F. Kennedy assassination, the Challenger disaster and September 11, 2011. Sometimes, they accompany significant personal events such as births, deaths, marriages or divorces.

The Pew Research Center report stated that on September 5, 2002 97 percent of surveyed remembered where they were when they learned of the situation. In 2006, 95 percent surveyed remembered and just last month (August 2011), 97 percent remember.

But with all situations, there are skeptics. Some studies say that people forget or replace important details within the recollections. Even though some details may be skewed, certain details of that day are certainly there.

On May 1, 2011, news of Osama bin Laden’s assassination would hit the airwaves. In the same survey, in August only 81 percent surveyed remembered exactly where they were at the time of Osama’s assassination. Obviously, these memories are not quite as vivid as 9/11.

Do you have a flashbulb memory of what you were doing when you learned of 9/11?

For me, it was a nice Tuesday morning on September 11, 2001. Our base safety inspector and I were conducting a unit safety inspection. As we walked into our next shop, breaking news on the TV caught our attention. We witnessed smoke bellowing out of the World Trade Center building. It was reported that the plane deviated off course. As we were baffled with such incompetence, we witnessed the second plane disintegrate into the second tower. As we stood in shock, the inspector received a call to return to headquarters.

Ten days later, I would deploy from a somber, almost lifeless nation. Nothing moved, everything was closed, airplanes grounded except for the ones we were boarding as we deployed to the Middle East. Six months later, I would return to a United States so unified and patriotic it was amazing; there were patriotic songs and flags flying everywhere. It was quite a different nation than when I’d left. …and one different from now. But these memories of my return aren’t quite as clear as the ones I recollect on that nice September day in 2001. Brian Evans

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