Davenport North High School students have no firsthand memories of Sept. 11, 2001; most had not been born, and the oldest among them were unaware toddlers on that day.
That's one reason why North High teacher Allison Newman focused on memory retention for her psychology classes on Monday. "Flashbulb memories," a 1977 finding by Roger Brown and James Kulik, formed the basis for Newman's class of juniors and seniors.
This type of memory is described as especially vivid, and one that is stored on one occasion and retained for life. It can be associated with important historical or personal events.
Newman introduced the "flashbulb memory" concept as part of a new unit on memory. She's been teaching for 14 years, and always talks about 9/11 when class is held on that day in September.
She graduated from North High School in 1999 and was a junior at the former Mount St. Clare College in Clinton in September 2001. She told the students her personal story as an example of a vivid flashback memory. Events of her day included the college students who eventually realized their country was under attack and went out to fill up their cars with gas.
But is the teacher's story actually what happened? Newman talked about research among academics, and said while her 9/11 memory is true to her, it could be truth based on how she's told the story over the years.
Details, like what she wore on that day, could be wrong, she said, citing the work of Elizabeth Loftus, an American cognitive psychologist who has long studied how memory is malleable.
Students largely agreed with the flashbulb memory concept, and how memories can vary. While they were not born, or were babies, in 2001, the students know about it and three of them have visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.
Several discussed how vivid memories are stored and re-examined at a later time. It made sense to juniors Tyler Bishop, Ariana Kruse and Levi Graham.
Ariana and Levi had visited the 9/11 Memorial, and they have strong memories of the site. The names of every person who died in the attacks are inscribed into bronze panels, Ariana said.
The names edge Memorial pools, built within the footprints of the original Twin Towers, according to the website, 911memorial.org.
Over the years, high school students have become less and less tuned into the events of 9/11, Newman said, while what happened 16 years ago is vividly recalled by many older Americans.
The students understand very well about terrorism; that's the world they grew up in, the teacher said. That was not so true in 2001, when many Americans believed that other people in the world looked up to and admired the United States. That assumption came crashing down with the Twin Towers, Newman told the class.
"Our students," she said. "They live in a world of terrorism, and that's all they know."