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Where were you when the world stopped?

Grant McGee

I’ve been meaning to write a nice letter to the country singer Alan Jackson for a while now.

It would be just a fan letter, letting him know how I think he has been blessed with a great songwriting talent.

I thought about writing that letter when I first heard his song “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).”

Jackson has written a lot of good songs, but to me, “Where Were You…” captures the first initial feeling many of us probably felt as the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfolded.

“Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?”

I was living in Bisbee, Ariz. I had been out walking my dogs and returned to the house to see the news of the first plane’s crash.

As I stood in front of the television wondering how a passenger jet could be so far off course and hit the building, a second plane hit.

“Two planes. This is no accident,” I said.

I was stunned.

“Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke rising against that blue sky?”

I couldn’t get enough news that day. I left the radio on at my job in Tombstone. I felt like I was moving through molasses. A co-worker stayed away from my office and the radio. She said she didn’t want to know any more than she did.

The boss walked in and wanted to know why we were behind schedule.

“The planes, the World Trade Center,” I said.

“Oh, THAT,” she said. “That doesn’t affect us, let’s get going, we have a deadline.”

“Someone has attacked our homeland,” I said, verging on getting really emotional over her incredible indifference.

Unprecedented things happened: All air traffic in the United States was grounded; the New York Stock Exchange would be closed the next day.

The next day I found a swatch of black fabric and wrapped it around my left bicep. I couldn’t see just going about my business as if nothing happened. I felt something deep and jarring inside. Our homeland had been attacked.

Tombstone is a tourist town, so American flags were a common sale item in the shops. I bought one for my car. It was one of the few left in this particular store.

“There was a barrelful of those yesterday,” said the store worker.

On a bus to Little Rock, Ark., the following spring I sat beside a Marine Corps sniper. He told me about his work, why he thought he had the best job in the world.

“So you’re on your way to Afghanistan?” I asked.

"No, home on leave, then we’re off,” but he declined to say to where.

“So where were you on September 11?”

“We were in Okinawa. We stood there in front of the television for about two hours, none of us saying much,” he said. “Then one by one we walked to our bunks and started packing. We were sure we were going somewhere.

“Then our commanding officer came in and told us to unpack. He understood our feelings but they had other plans for us. We ended up going to the Philippines.

“I wish we’d gone right after them instead,” he said, looking out the window.

“Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?”

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at:

[email protected]