It’s late, you’re curled up on the couch, nursing a nightcap while reminiscing with friends about the old days. Nostalgia takes a turn and heads straight for the morose when someone asks, “Hey, do you remember where you were when the Challenger exploded?” This question of course is a result of talking about material posted on FaceBook and the many articles commemorating the 29th anniversary of the tragedy. Further conversation is built upon that topic as you each take turns exploring your memories of other significant events in history. The evening ends with everyone feeling emotionally spent, but in awe at how well your memories work despite age and drinks consumed.
You see memories aren’t always reliable, but when something significant occurs our brains sit up straight and pay closer attention. For example, I can’t remember the details of what I did last Monday, but I can remember everything about the morning of September 11th. The term for these types of memories is, Flashbulb Memories. They are very clear, detailed recollections of events that happened as long as decades ago and are said to be so vividly complete because of their emotional importance to us (Brown&Kulik, 1977). These memories not only bring back the details of the event and where we were in relation to it, but the emotion, albeit not as acute.
The topic of this post came to me while reading about the Challenger and I was struck at the memories that came flooding back. I don’t remember everything, but I do remember where I was and that I was confused and scared more by my teachers reactions. A lot has happened in the world since then. Some I remember easily and with great detail, others I had forgotten about and was reminded of as I wrote this post. We have endured many horrific events, but there are also some amazing, inspiring, historical incidents that are equally as important in they way they affect us. Do you remember where you were when…
- President Kennedy was assassinated? (1963)
- Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated? (1968)
- First man landed on the moon? (1969)
- Woodstock festival? (1969)
- Elvis died? (1977)
- The Berlin Wall came down? (1989)
- OJ was acquitted? (1995)
- Princess Diana was killed? (1997)
- 9/11 attacks? (2001)
- The Asian tsunami hit? (2004)
- Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans? (2005)
- Barack Obama became president? (2009)
So when you’re hanging out with your friends or family, and you find the conversation winding down, throw out one of these doozies and see what people remember. Make sure you include the happy memories or one nightcap may turn into three.