Teachers reflect on moments during 9/11 attack

A lot of people can recall exactly what they were doing when they heard about the terrorist attack that killed 2,996 people on Sept. 11, 17 years ago. This is due to a concept known as a “flashbulb memory,” a memory which is tied to an emotionally significant event.

Sept. 11 was a huge source of flashbulb memories for people living all across the country. “When you have events that are as significant as a terrorist attack on your home country, those are things that will stick with you,” psychology teacher Melissa Rogers said. “Really, our lives as individuals and as a country changed on that day, and for some people this was the first terrorist attack they lived through.”

However, these memories may not be quite as accurate as the people who experience them think. “When we remember an event, we are essentially remembering it as how we remembered it the last time,” Rogers said.

While Sept. 11 was an extremely negative event, “Flashbulb memories don’t always have to be negative. They can be positive as well,” Rogers said. “The day of your wedding. The birth of your first child. Those are, we assume, good memories, but they are going to be filled with a lot of emotion.” This extreme emotion is what creates flashbulb memories.

On Sept. 11, media specialist Kristi Anhalt was about to go into work when she heard the news. She was able to make sure a friend of hers was OK and watch the rest of the news unfold before she had to go to work at the Waterloo Public Library.

“That evening many of the pilots were using our computers to check their schedules and find out what they needed to do,” Anhalt said. “It was unsettling because these pilots were very concerned about the situation, and their emotions were felt by all of us in the library.”

Social studies teacher Jeremiah Longnecker was teaching at Peet when he heard the news. “When the first plane hit, I was told, and it went in one ear out the other. I didn’t pay any attention to it. It’s not uncommon for small planes to hit big buildings in big cities,” Longnecker said, “and then Mr. Bockus, who was a teacher at Peet at that time who was the department head, came into my room second period and said another plane just hit, and it took me a second to assemble what was going on.”

Social studies teacher Traci Lake was a junior in high school when she heard the news about the Sept. 11 attacks. “My [American literature] teacher turned on the TV and all the networks were already into breaking coverage. As we were watching we saw the second airplane hit the towers and all sat in shock and silence,” Lake said.

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