VIDEO: Webster University Students Recall 9/11 and the Science Behind Memories


Where were you on 9/11? That’s the question we are asked with the 10 anniversary of the World Trade Center toppling to the ground at the start of a beautiful, New York City September day in 2001. Some were scared, some were confused, and some were worried about loved ones. We all said that we would always remember where we were on that dreadful day for the rest of our lives.

Webster Student’s recollections of 9/11

Some Webster University were young when 9/11 happened. Many didn’t see why this event was so important. Ben Delatte, 19, says he was just in 4th grade when 9/11 happened and he didn’t see the big deal then. He then thought about his father.

“I do remember wondering where my dad was because my dad traveled a lot and some how I thought he had got on that plane. So I was worried for a second,” said Delatte.

Other students were a little older and recognized the tragedy that was taking place right before their eyes. Kevin Newman, 25, was in his high school biology class. Someone had come into the class and whispered something into his teacher’s ear.

“Her face went really pale, it was a really eerie moment for our whole class,” said Newman.

Melvin Olsen Jr., 46, was a truck driver at the time. He was driving through the Sacramento, California area when he saw a sign on the highway.

“I saw a road sign that said turn your radios to 1600 am. I just thought it was going to be a traffic accident or something. So I turned my radio on and they said planes were crashing into buildings.”

What do experts say about our memories?

Dr. Heather Mitchell is an assistant professor at Webster University. She studied cognitive psychology at the University of Memphis. Mitchell says that these memories are called ‘flash bulb memories.’

Flash bulb memories are tied to our emotions. They are so vivid that we almost see a picture in our minds when we think about the events that took place on important days of our lives. Examples of these memories can be days like 9/11, wedding days, or even traumatic events like an assault.

Mitchell gives an example of a study that investigated the memories of a group of psychology students after the OJ Simpson trial. They interviewed them about their memories of the trial one-day after, then again at 18 months, and again 32 months later. The study showed that there were drastic differences in the memories after time. However the student’s confidence in their memories increased.

Psychologists think the reason our confidence goes up is because of where our memories are stored in our brain. The area where they are stored is called the amygdala. The amygdala remembers our emotional reactions. The hypothesis is that the emotions affect the accuracy of our memories but increase our confidence.

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