9/11’s Twenty Years of Collective Memories



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Kathryn Vlaanderen, Staff Writer

This past Saturday marked twenty years of collective memories which are associated with the 9/11 terrorist attack that forever changed the New York skyline and our lives.

Collective memory is known as the subjective perception of a particular group for a historical event.  Collective memories hold political, emotional and spiritual memories that separates emotions from the historical event.

WSC Director of Counseling, Alicia Dorcey, recounts collective memory as it relates to trauma by saying, “Our brain is like a computer, an elaborate huge computer system, but in that our memories get stored like files and those are stored in our brain. When we have something traumatic happen, I think of it as if that file doesn’t get filed, we don’t know what to do with that. It’s too much information…It’s traumatic; it is too hard.  We don’t really know what to do with that file so we shove it away so we can’t really think about it, but it comes back.”

While there is proof that the events of the September 11 attacks did happen, the interpretations and perceptions such as what it meant to be a victim of the attacks or what it meant to have a family member in one of the towers contribute to America’s collective memories of the attacks and may not be adequately recounted enough. When it comes to collective memories, they tend to intersect and affect everyone differently. The majority group decides what is put forth into the minds of the younger generation who does not have a personal experience with this day. 

WSC psychology professor, Dr. Tatiana Ballion, she said, “Maybe you didn’t live through it. Maybe you don’t have a visceral ‘Oh my God!’ reaction to seeing people jumping out of the buildings and being helpless to do anything about it, but since these have been entered into the collective memory in a way, it is kind of like taking these moments of the time and saying these are important, learn about them, remember them, etc.” 

The attacks of 9/11 resulted in a resurgence of patriotism in the United States who all share a collective memory of the event.  Americans felt the need to foster a bond and come together as a community. This patriotism is still felt every year on Sept. 11 where schools still teach what happened on twenty years ago.