What were you doing when you first heard about what happened on September 11, 2001?
It seems as if everyone can describe that horrific moment on hearing about the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center and being glued to the television as events unfolded. They are part of a wide range of exceptionally vivid memories we seem to have concerning traumatic events that stay with us long after other memories fade with time.
Known as "flashbulb memories", they are a form of autobiographical memory that are especially powerful due to surprise and shock that ensures that the memory stays with us. It seems to be a central trait of flashback memories that we are as likely to recall where and when we first heard about the traumatic moment as the details of what actually happened. There is also a critical distinction between flashbulb memories and what psychologists refer to as event memories which focus on the details of the event that forms the flashbulb moment. We may all recall the events of 9/1i, such as how many planes were involved for example, but it's the flashbulb aspects of those memories that stay with us for so long.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.