A week after the Sept. 11 attacks, researchers across the country began surveying Americans in order to comprehend how the public understood and recalled the 2001 tragedy. Follow-up surveys were administered in two subsequent years, 2002 and 2004, leaving the consortium with recollections of hundreds of those who lived through 9/11 as they remembered it shortly after that fateful day and years later.

New York University, one of the members of the consortium, has announced that it will house the data for use by researchers. The database will be open for general scholarly use in approximately 3 years.

The initial response to the survey was overwhelming. From September 17 - 24, 2001, the questionnaire was distributed across the country, one location in Europe (Sweden), and to specially targeted demographic groups, such as the elderly. The returned surveys offer a means of comprehensively and thoroughly studying how the emotional and public nature of 9/11 influences our memories. Memories of these types of events are commonly called “flashbulb memories” due to their vivid and detailed picture-like quality, even when they are inaccurate. This research will provide a greater understanding of how a range of factors, such as emotion, personal experience with the terrorist attacks, and the media alter our recollection of 9/11, in addition to investigating the correlation between regional and other demographic differences in greater depth than in previous studies. The consortium intends for the database to yield substantial progress in assessing the content, accuracy, and impact of traumatic events, such as 9/11, on the memory of all who are involved—either directly or indirectly.

For more information on the project and sample surveys, go to http://911memory.nyu.edu/

The consortium is composed of, in alphabetical order: Randy Buckner (Harvard University); Andrew Budson (Harvard Medical School); John Gabrieli (Stanford University); William Hirst (New School University); Marcia Johnson (Yale University); Cindy Lustig (University of Michigan); Mara Mather (University of California - Santa Cruz); Kevin Oschner (Columbia University); Elizabeth Phelps (New York University); Daniel Schacter (Harvard University); Jon Simons (University College, London); and Chandan Vaidya (Georgetown University).

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