Irregular events imprinted in our minds – 9/11/2023 #neverforget #flashbulbmemory

Today is the anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. This day is one of those days when we recall what we were doing and where we were when we first heard about the tragedy. We vividly remember how we felt and who we were with.

In the world of psychology, this is called ‘flashbulb memory’. According to an article by the APA, the flashbulb memory theory was proposed in 1977 by the psychologists Roger Brown, PhD, and James Kulik, PhD, “…who posited that these memories are so emotionally important to us that they’re laid down as vividly, completely and accurately as a photograph…”

An article in the Psychology Today on-line magazine offers this information about the theory of flashbulb memory:

“…William Hirst et al. (2015) studied flashbulb memories specifically in connection with the September 11, 2001 attack. They define a flashbulb memory as “a memory for the circumstance in which one learned of a public event.” They note that it is characterized by its long-lasting effect—that people can describe it many years after the fact. They use the term event memory to describe remembering a public event that leads to a flashbulb memory…”

Basically, flashbulb memory kicks in when an irregular event elicits strong emotion and our amygdala, which responds to emotional stimuli, gets itself in an uproar and goes screaming to the hippocampus who records it for us to remember in great detail. Thank you very much amygdala and hippocampus.

I recall exactly where I was when several irregular, tragic events occurred. I recall what I was doing, how I reacted, and who I was with.

1963: Nov. 22 – President John F. Kennedy’s assassination
1968: April 4 – Martin Luther King assassinated
1968: June 6 – Robert F. Kennedy assassinated
1979: March 28 – Three Mile Island nuclear incident
1980: May 18 – Mount St. Helens volcano eruption
1980: Dec. 6 – John Lennon’s death
1983: Dec. 7 – Marty Robbins’ death
1986: Jan. 28 – Challenger explosion
1986: April 26 – Chernobyl nuclear incident
1995: April 19 – Oklahoma City bombing
2001: Sept. 11 – Twin Towers in New York attack
2018: June 23 to July 10 – Tham Luan cave rescue
2020: Jan. 6 – Insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol

You may say this list isn’t worldly, and that it’s U.S.-centric. That’s fair. But in my defense, I am not a worldly person, and I live in the U.S. I have always insulated myself from the news as best I can. My mental health suffers otherwise. Still, it’s impossible to insulate from all world news. These events have stayed with me for different reasons. Just as each of you have individual reactions to your own list of ‘irregular’ events. I’m deliberately leaving out the mass murders with guns that are simply too many to comprehend, and my amygdala and hippocampus are on overload right now as they send up these flashbulb memories to my conscious self.

  • The deaths of John Lennon and Marty Robbins saddened me, because of the personal connection I felt with their music.
  • The assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King occurred during my early teen years. I wasn’t politically aware, but I knew both deaths were socially devastating. The same with the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.
  • The two nuclear power plant incidences scared the living bejeebers out of me. Holy moly.
  • Ash from the Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption made its way to northeastern Colorado where I lived. the ash covered sidewalks, cars, dirt… It was scary and fascinating.
  • I was 8 years old when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I recall my parent’s being glued to the television for days, which means I was glued with them. I have my 8-year-old memories of that, which are enhanced (tainted) by my parent’s reactions. Regardless, I remember it.
  • My three young children and I watched the Challenger take off…and explode. One of many unbelievable, irregular, world events.
  • I was the school principal in a small, rural Colorado school when the Oklahoma City bombing happened. In the aftermath, that little community was drawn into the federal investigation because of the suspected ties with the former American Ag movement that called that little town its headquarters.
  • The terrorist attack on New York’s Twin Towers was shocking. It rocked the our nation to its very core.
    The Tham Luan cave rescue was edge-of-your-seat terror to watch and wait and hold your breath for a happy ending everyone involved.
  • I watched the attack on the U.S. Capitol building as it happened. I will never let go of anger I still feel about the deceit, evil machinations, and downright reprehensible politics behind the attack. I never will.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer
Lasterday Stories
writing through history one romance upon a time

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