Have you ever heard the term “flash bulb” memories? Usually memories that we are most confident in recalling, are also those that are most accurate, unless they are emotionally charged memories. How does one’s memories of an event ten years later compare to the diary entry one wrote ten hours after the event? Recent studies, including those specifically connected to the events of 9/11, show many of the details we have held onto over the last decade are not entirely accurate.
It is a constant challenge for historians, this unreliable factor in memory, who often base their work on the recollections of their sources. In this case, as a text-based society not naturally trained to preserve events in our memories as opposed to text formats, it is even more difficult then it would be for other societies that developed methods for preserving history in collective memories–although, naturally, we often leave more textual accounts behind, the digital age complicates access. (So, keep that in mind before you go deleting e-mails and pictures from your inbox! When they describe events, feel free to print them out and file them somewhere for future archives and historians.)
9/11 was one of the most significant events of the last ten years. It is one of the most important of our collective memories, such as they are, and one that is already in the rearview mirror for many of the current generation who lack a direct connection to the loss. So, it is important to find ways to preserve our memories, collectively and individually for the next generation.
To read about the studies done surrounding our 9/11 memories, click on the link at the top of the post. To add your memory to the collective, click on Sept. 11: Where were you?, to visit the interactive map of stories being collected by the Baltimore Sun.