Remembering 9/11 and Flashbulb Memories

On the morning of September 11, 2001, somewhere between 8:30 am and 9:30 am (Texas time) I learned that our nation had been attacked. I was in 8th grade at the time. I had just walked into the school library. As I was walking down the long aisle you had to pass in order to get to the book collection, I noticed one of the librarians had the television on (which was unheard of) and was standing right below it watching the Today Show. On the screen, I remember vividly seeing a skyscraper in New York on fire. I also remember seeing this librarian crying, and I said, “What’s wrong?” She just shook her head. The rest of the day and following weeks our teachers regularly had their big screen classroom televisions on; although, they never talked about it or explained what was going on. Although I knew that our nation had been attacked and remembered seeing many things change, it was many years until I really understood what happened. Even though I didn’t understand what happened, somehow I unconsciously knew that it was one of those truly once-in-a-lifetime moments. This “flashbulb memory,” as psychologists call it, is still a very vivid memory and one with memories of the confusion an 8th grader felt.

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out the news on 9/11?

As we reflect back on 9/11, over a decade ago now (seems impossible, doesn’t it?), let’s remember both how much the world has changed since 9/10/01 (and before) and how much it has remained the same. 

Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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3 replies

  1. Got out of teaching a Latin American history class at 9:15 a.m. Eastern and saw students crowded around a television set in the hallway (one that usually just carried campus announcements). As soon as I returned to my office, I turned on the television and saw news of the planes hitting the Pentagon and crashing in the field in southwestern Pennsylvania. I watched the news the rest of the day, and I turned on the television in the classroom that night before class (immigration history). For the first (and so far, only) time, I allowed students in class to keep their cell phones turned on, because some had friends and family who either had worked at the World Trade Center or who were First Responders. I cut class short that night (again, a first and only time) because I knew it was pointless to discuss anything related to immigration history that day.

    Last year, I traveled to Flight 93 National Memorial on July 4. It definitely was a sobering experience, and one that I highly recommend. The walk to the memorial wall is a bit long (my mother with the walker only made it about halfway), but it’s affirming to see how people honor and remember those heroes who died saving our country.

    And my flashbulb moment–I’m a bit older, and it’s JFK’s assassination.



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