9/11 and the Upshot of Flashbulb Memory


9/11 and the Upshot of Flashbulb Memory

Illustration: Akshita Monga


ive people – my entire family at the time – were staring at the television. I’d just walked into the living room. Oblivious to the world, barely 14 yet, I took the remote. It was time for F.R.I.E.N.D.S, reruns of which played every weeknight at 8 pm. Nobody really objected, but at the persistent “breaking news” ticker on Star World (these were the days before it had become BREAKING NEWS!!), I was asked to switch back. Sombre presenters on CNN were talking about the first plane crashing into the towers. My 14-year-old self imagined it to be a grand stunt, straight out of the movies. In my memory, still luridly cinematic, there’s an orange hue that I can see – like an uncool Instagram filter. The date was September 11, 2001.

I could tell you more about that day. What I was wearing. The weather that day in Delhi. What we had for dinner. And that was 17 years ago. And yet, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what I had for dinner last night. I count on Facebook to remember my best friend’s birthday and my phone to remember his number. I even blank out mid-sentence while ordering takeout. Yet we all remember where we were that day – what we were doing, how cold it was, who we were fighting at the time.