It was just another day of elementary school. We were sitting in our assigned seats, eager to learn, when my teacher, Mrs. Pickard, excused herself from the classroom. The teachers gathered in the hallway. At first, we all thought they were going to play a fun joke on us (as they had done in the past). Then, we heard Fear – shock – concern – in their voices. Finally, they returned to the classroom where we waited for a special announcement from our school’s principal: “There has been a terrible incident in New York City. We will be excusing our students early today.” My mom came to pick me up shortly after. Still confused, I asked my mom what was going on- and even she couldn’t comprehend what had happened. What is this terrible event that I’m referring to? 9/11. My memory of the event rings so clear in my mind, despite it being so long ago.
This extreme memory is classified as a flashbulb memory. According to Muchinsky (2012), flashbulb memories are an individual’s memory for the circumstances surrounding highly shocking, supercharged events. Thus, in this case, my description of where I was and what I was doing on 9/11 is a perfect example.
In the article “A Memorial Is Itself a Shaper of Memory”, Boxer (2001) determines if it is possible for individuals to remember events as they actually were, or if they are highly influenced by emotion. Memory is highly susceptible to change; when individuals talk or hear about a pressing issue, they fulfill an internal consensus, forming new collective memories. Boxer (2011) describes a public memorial or ruin as a “scaffold,” something on which collective memory can hang. Ruins have the ability to “erase history”, as individuals are more likely to believe the narrative that comes with it.
This article explains just how inaccurate our memories may be. If we were to measure the accuracy of an individual’s reported memories, a repeated recall must be used to compare later memories with memories collected immediately after the event.
Muchinsky. (2011). Cognitive Psychology. Cengage Learning: Belmont, CA (3).
Boxer, S. (2001). A Memorial Itself is a Shaper of Memory. NY Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/27/arts/27MEMO.html.