When the news of Princess Diana’s death broke, millions of people around the world were shocked. And most people can still recall where they were and what they were doing when the news broke, more than two decades later.
If you’re one of those people, psychologists have now given you an explanation for why you remember that particular moment.
In Paris, a fatal car accident occurred.
Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, dined at the Ritz in Paris around 10 p.m. on Aug. 30, 1997. Around midnight, the two left the hotel and headed to Fayed’s apartment on Rue Arsène Houssaye.
They left from the back of the hotel to try to fool the paparazzi, but the photographers had figured it out and were waiting for them. The photographers pursued them as they drove away in a Mercedes limousine driven by Henri Paul, the Ritz security chief. Paul was speeding to get away from the paparazzi and crashed into a pillar in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, which is only two miles from the hotel. Fayed and Paul were killed on the spot, but the princess survived and was taken to the La Pitie Salpetriere Hospital. On August 31, 1997, Diana was declared dead.
The reason you can still recall where you were when Princess Diana died is because
Thousands of people in the United Kingdom and around the world were shocked to learn that Princess Diana had died in the horrific crash. Many people can still recall where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. But why is that the case?
Many psychologists believe this is due to a phenomenon known as “flashbulb memory.” These flashbulb memories can happen after major incidents or dramatic events, and they are remembered “as vividly, completely, and accurately as a photograph” in our minds. If you think back to where you were when you learned Princess Diana had died, you probably have a vivid image in your mind of someone reading or hearing the news to you.
According to the American Psychological Association, Harvard psychologists Roger Brown and James Kulik proposed flashbulb memories in the late 1970s.
“Every time there’s a public trauma, psychologists rush out into the street and record people’s memories,” said cognitive psychologist William Hurst (per The Express). “With the Challenger explosion, they did it. They did it with Princess Diana’s death, and we did it with September 11th. What makes these events so memorable is the unusual intersection of the personal and the public, so that learning about the event becomes more important to you than learning the facts about it.”
Something else from that day will be remembered by people all over the world.
Tony Blair was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the time of the Princess of Wales’ death. During a public speech, he expressed his sadness and shock to the nation. Blair gave that speech in which he referred to Diana as the “People’s Princess,” a moniker she would never forget.
“You know how difficult things were for her at times, I’m sure we could only guess at, but people all over the world — not just here in Britain, but all over the world — they kept faith with Princess Diana,” Blair said. “They liked her, they loved her, and they saw her as one of the community. She was known as the’People’s Princess.’ And that’s how she’ll stay, how she’ll stay in our hearts and memories for the rest of our lives.”