Friday, January 28, 2011

Flashbulb Memories & The Challenger Disaster

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy. I'd forgotten until I saw the front page of the Nashua Telegraph this morning.

Before I left the house to come to the library, I posted on my Facebook page where I'd been when the explosion happened. I'd just graduated from college and was waitressing at a bar in downtown Cincinnati. We were getting ready for the lunch rush. Everything in the bar stopped as we all watched the TV.

I immediately began receiving emails - friends sharing where they were when they heard about the disaster - in their elementary school classroom, in their home in Alaska, driving in their Datsun. Many of us have memories of where we were at that awful moment.

This type of memory is called a
flashbulb memory, a "highly detailed, exceptionally vivid 'snapshots' of the moment and circumstances in which surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) news was heard." They're a type of autobiographical memory - they define a moment in our life. I have those sorts of memories about when Ronald Reagan was shot, when John Lennon was murdered, and when the World Trade Center was hit. I'm sure many of you do too.

But today, since I live in New Hampshire, I'm remembering Christa McAuliffe.

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