Yesterday we remembered the anniversary of a tragedy.  For Americans (and others around the world) September 11th is a day that merits a pause for thought.  A very common question heard on this day is “Do you remember where you were when it happened?”

Most of us do, very vividly.  Shocking, large-scale tragedy does that; it cements otherwise mundane and routine details into your memory forever.

There have been several snapshot-creating events that have happened in my lifetime.  Unlike September 11th, they are not immortalized by their date of occurrence, so it usually takes a reminder from the news or a website for me to realize that it is an anniversary.  It is an interesting conversation to have with someone to ask them what events they remember.  Columbine, the Columbia shuttle disaster, the Atlanta Olympics bombing; most of the events I can remember happened after I was in high school.

What I find even more intriguing is the question of the earliest event people can recall.

I was only 5 when the Challenger exploded, but I still have vivid memories.  The Challenger launch was very exciting, because there was a teacher on board the shuttle.  We watched it live in my Kindergarten class.  I remember seeing it take off and explode, but I don’t remember what happened after that.  It’s very possible that my young mind didn’t register what happened at that point; later information filled in the details of what exactly an exploding shuttle means.  But I do very clearly recall the event, making it the earliest one I remember.

Newsworthy events, even bombings and terrorism, don’t usually register with kids.  I was alive for Waco and the Oklahoma City Bombing, but they didn’t crystallize memory for me.  But the shuttle launch was a part of my life, and the disaster made it stick.  I wonder how many kids who were alive on 9/11 remember exactly where they were when it happened, like those of us who were teens or adults do.