Music

The Story Behind Alan Jackson's 'Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)'

Screengrab via YouTube

Of all the country music songs written in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, none stands out more than Alan Jackson's "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." It's a simple yet powerful song that expresses what Americans felt that day.

The "Gone Country" singer had no idea the song would have such an impact and said the idea came to him in the middle of the night. He shared the story of the song's inception with Yahoo News

"I woke up one morning around 4 a.m. a few weeks afterward, and had that chorus going through my head. The song came out of nowhere in the middle of the night -- 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. It was a Sunday -- I remember because, when I started writing it, my wife and girls had gone off to Sunday school, and I finished it that day. Like I said, that song was just a gift. I've never felt I could take credit for writing it. Looking back, I guess I just didn't want to forget how I felt on that day and how I knew other people felt."

Jackson performed "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" during the ACM Awards in Dallas, Texas back in 2015. Watch that performance in the video below.

"Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" debuted as a single for Arista Nashville on Nov. 26, 2001. It's B-side was "Drive (For Daddy Gene)." It went on to top the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

It won Jackson a Grammy Award for Best Country Song in addition to ACM and CMA Awards for Song of the Year and Single of the Year..

This story originally ran on Sept. 18, 2018.

"Where Were You (when the World Stopped Turning)" Lyrics

Where were you when the world stopped turnin'
That September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or workin' on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children, they lost their dear loved ones
Pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out with pride for the red, white, and blue
And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN, but I'm not sure I can tell you
The diff'rence in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope, and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turnin'
That September day?
Teachin' a class full of innocent children
Or drivin' down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor?
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset for the first time in ages
And speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on I Love Lucy reruns?
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Stand in line to give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN, but I'm not sure I can tell you
The diff'rence in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope, and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love
I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN, but I'm not sure I can tell you
The diff'rence in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope, and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

And the greatest is love
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turnin'
On that September day?

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The Story Behind Alan Jackson's 'Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)'