On September 11, 2001, the world changed forever with the devastating attacks on both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” embodied the thoughts and feelings of millions in the wake of the events that took place 11 years ago.
There are soundbites from country superstar Alan Jackson sharing memories and thoughts on the events of September 11, 2001 and discussing his song, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” as well as remembrances from Lady Antebellum, Eric Church and Eric Paslay.
The chorus and melody of “Where Were You…” came to Jackson in the middle of the night several weeks after the 9/11 tragedies. He awoke…sang the words into a recorder and wrote down key elements of the chorus…and completed the lyrics and verses later that same day. Initially reluctant to record the song, he was convinced by family and friends to share it with the world and debuted “Where Were You…” live on national television in early November at the 35th annual CMA Awards.
“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” embodied the thoughts and feelings of millions in the wake of the 2001 events. Written by Jackson, the song was called “…one of the most touching, powerful songs to come after the tragedies” by USA Today and dubbed “a reflective hymn that Americans will be listening to well into the second half of this century” by Salon.com. The New York Times singled out “Where Were You…” as “one of his finest songs,” and Billboard noted “a multitude of songs have been written and recorded in the wake of September 11th, but none captures the myriad emotions unleashed by the terrorist attacks on an unsuspecting nation more perfectly than Jackson’s eloquent ballad.” The song went on to be honored with a Grammy, CMA and ACM Awards.
Last year, as part of the national observance of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Jackson performed “Where Were You…” at Washington National Cathedral.
AUDIO: Alan Jackson explains why he feels “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” still resonates with music fans in concert 11 years after the events of September 11, 2001.
AJ (Where Were You) 1 OC: …big changes. :50
“At the time, it was very meaningful to people and I felt really good about contributing something. And then I thought it would just fade away and then we’d ease it out of the show, but now I see people out there that I feel like are waiting for that song, you know? I think it’s more than just the 9-11 connection. I mean, the real hook in it is quotes right out of the Bible anyway. And still, at night, it’s one of my biggest songs in the show. It’s hard to follow it, but I see so many that are holding up them lighters and are glad to hear it, and I think are moved by it and glad I did it. And I heard so many stories back during that time when it was happening. People said, ‘Oh, they quit their jobs, and they changed their lifestyles and started going to church and found somebody to marry!’ It was just like all these things that affected…those were big changes!”
AUDIO: Alan Jackson describes how the events of September 11, 2001 impacted him…and talks about writing “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” a few weeks later.
AJ (Where Were You) 2 OC: …same feelings. 1:33
“Well, I don’t know – I think I was probably like most people that were impacted with that day and the months that followed. You know, everybody was glued to the news and television and I think it really affected a lot of people – their perspective on their lives and their jobs and their families and where they were and what they were wanting to do and how they looked at things. And I guess…I mean, that’s what I was thinking, too. And I just pretty much visualized a lot of those scenes and stories I’d heard and seen on television or heard people talk about. The song came out of nowhere in the middle of the night – the chorus did. Just a gift. And I got up and scribbled it down and put the melody down so I wouldn’t forget it, and then the next day I started piecing all those verses together that were the thoughts I’d had or visuals I’d had, and…that was about it. I think it was just really…I had so many people tell me that there’s always a line or something in there that they did, whether it was go to church or pick up their Bible or go see their mother or watch a sunset – I mean, just a lot of things in there people told me that they had actually done those things, so…I guess I was like everybody else, just feeling those same feelings.”
AUDIO: Alan Jackson recalls sharing “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” with all of us for the first time live on national television during the 35th Annual CMA Awards.
AJ (Where Were You) 3 OC: …meant something. :56
“It was a tough performance for me. You know, just the whole idea of releasing that song was a little bit tough. I wasn’t sure I wanted to put that out, but everybody convinced me that it was the thing to do…and in retrospect, I agree with that. But, you know, I hadn’t really sung the song much, first of all. It was just in the studio, basically, and when I wrote it…so it’s hard to go out there and sing something new anyway, and just the topic made it nerve-wracking, too. You know, I didn’t think about what was going to happen or anything – we just sang it. And I just remember, other than being relieved that I got through it, I just felt very proud that it seemed to cause a reaction in people…and I was proud that I got to do it, and that it seemed like it meant somethingA
AUDIO: Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley – whose birthday is September 11th – recalls where he was on September 11, 2001. [NOTE: Extreme background noise.]
Lady A (9-11 Charles) OC: …everybody. :30
CK: “It was my birthday believe it or not. Yeah. 9/11. So, I was in college, and yeah, it was wild. I mean, woke up, was getting ready to go to class. And I had a roommate come in and say, ‘Man, turn on the TV. Classes are canceled. You won’t believe…’ He had had an earlier class, and he comes in and says, ‘Turn on the TV.’ And we all got up and watched it. It was just wild. So, it’s hard to put into words. But it is funny, that it’s still and I can remember it and everybody can. It had such a huge Effect on everybody.”
AUDIO: Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott explains she was in high school when she and her fellow classmates heard about the tragic events of 9-11.
Lady A (9-11 Hillary) OC: …we’re protected. 1:19
HS: “I was in 10th grade, which is weird to think that I was in 10th grade and Charles and Dave were in college. But I was actually on my way to history class, interestingly enough, and so we got to that class and turned the TV on, and we’re just watching the footage and then our, we ended up having an assembly that day where the whole school went into the gym and our headmaster got up and explained kind of everything that was going on and what happened. And it is. It’s one of those things that’s forever ingrained in your memory. And I actually had a close friend of mine, it’s actually my God sister’s dad has been in the military and he’s retired now. But he was on his way to the Pentagon and didn’t get there. But so luckily before everything happened but it’s just, I think everyone has that personal connection to it no matter if you knew someone there or not. It’s just … and I think too not only is it a time to reflect on those lost in that tragedy, I think it’s a time to really celebrate our military. And just another way of bringing praise to them and thanking them for what they do, which is protect us and protect our freedom on a daily basis. And thankfully nothing like that has happened since. And I think that that’s a testament to how well we’re protected.”
AUDIO: Lady Antebellum’s Dave Haywood says he will never forget the lives that were lost during the tragic events of 9-11.
Lady A (9-11 Dave) OC: …were lost. :27
DH: “Gosh, I mean as a human, it just completely breaks your heart. And as an American, it was such a devastating tragedy. Gosh, I mean that it still affects us 10 years later, and it will for the rest of our lives. I mean, there’s no doubt that it will. But I think as people and as a country, we’re stronger for it and going to keep pushing forward. And our goal is to get rid of people that would do evil like that in the world. So it’s tough to have that happen to us but we’ll always remember those that were lost.”
AUDIO: Eric Church was on his way to work when he heard the news of the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2011.
Eric Church (9-11) OC: …that feeling. :23
“I was driving into work, the Shop-At-Home Network, I was listening to Gerry House, I remember that, and the news broke. [I] really couldn’t grasp what had happened until I got to work and saw it for myself on television. I remember I watched the second plane hit the tower in real time. I had just moved to Nashville earlier that year, and all I remember is wanting to go home and be with those I loved. I’ll never, I’ll never forget that feeling.”
AUDIO: Eric Paslay remembers being in class during the tragic events of 9/11.
Eric Paslay (9-11) OC: …I’ll never forget it. :30
“On 9/11, I remember I was a freshman in college, and I was in a class early that morning and a girl came in with the craziest look on her face, and she just started telling us she was listening to the radio and had heard that the planes had hit the buildings. Our teacher let us out of class, and I ended up going home and my dad was at the house already. We ended up going to eat an early lunch at kind of a burger joint in my hometown. And I remember just going in and everybody was just eating in silence. It was an awkward day. I’ll never forget it.”