Friday, September 11, 2009

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning...?

When I was taking college classes I usually only went to school two to three days a week. Since I was home a lot on the weekdays while my family and friends were at work/school, I got in a WONDERFUL habit of spending time with my Mimi. We went shopping, went to lunch, and just hung out at least once a week. How I MISS those empty days with no responsibility or bills, when I would drive or walk to my grandma's house and meet her.

September 11, 2001 was one of our planned days. She had a couple that she would have lunch with once a month. They have known me since I was a baby, so they enjoyed when I came along. That particular day we were headed to Rudy's in Warsaw at 11:00.

I woke early so I could watch T.V. and have plenty of time to get ready in a leisurely fashion. I was sitting on the couch at my Mom's house with a piece of buttered toast and had just turned on the T.V. Mom had been watching Today before she left for school, and before I had time to hit the guide button, I heard the sense of urgency in the tone. I could tell they were unscripted, and as I watched, I learned of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center.

"What an idiot," I thought to myself. Then I felt bad. Maybe the pilot had a heart attack. Maybe his plane malfunctioned. As Matt and Katie discussed the possible explanations and waited for the voices in their ears to give them details, they showed footage of the burning building. The smoke rose from the towers, then all of a sudden, a plane flew into the second tower.

At first I wondered how they had footage if it was accidental. It took me a while to realize that was a second plane. I had witnessed it. The world, or New York anyway, had been panicking about the first plane, and never saw the second one coming.

I kept listening, trying to understand what was happening. I knew it was bad. I knew something terrible was happening, but I didn't understand what. As the morning wore on, and more details came in, it settled in my mind that it was an attack.

I tried not to worry about it. We went to lunch at Rudy's. It was a warm day. I even remember that I was wearing capris and black sandals. We talked about it and what it meant.

By the time I got home from lunch, the world was in sheer panic. There were rumors of war (I won't lie, Revelation crossed my mind). People were lined up at the pumps trying to get gas. Rumors flew that prices would soar, or that we'd be without fuel altogether. People flooded Wal-Mart looking for bottled water and non-perishables. For the first time in my life, the belief I always held that American soil would never see war was vanishing.

I was scared.

I waited in line and filled up my car with the maximum twelve gallons. I waited eagerly for my mom to come home so I could talk to her about it, see what she heard. I watched T.V. all day long, trying to get any clues as to whether or not I was safe. In Warsaw, Missouri was I unsafe? Would there be more attacks? Even MTV showed nothing but footage. It must be big.

In the months that followed the talk died down. We declared war, and America changed from the country I'd known. Country song after country song hit the airwaves. They were angry, they were sad, they were patriotic. I related to all of them.

"Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list, and the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist. And the Eagle will rise, and there's gonna be Hell when you here Mother Freedom start ringing her bell and it'll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you...oh brought to you courtesy of the Red White and Blue.." it made my adrenaline rush, my heart pound.

"Have you forgotten how it felt that day to see your homeland under fire and her people blown away? Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside going through a living hell. And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout Bin Laden? Have you forgotten?" A few months later when the war was criticized, when Bush's name became mud, when soldiers were dying and the Hollywood starlets were anti-war I was mad. This song evoked pride and feelings of support.

But the one that has touched me the most, the one that still brings tears to my eyes was Alan Jackson's "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning." It was performed live at an awards show, and I will never forget his performance, in his ripped jeans and suit jacket.

"...Did you go to a church and hold hands with some stranger? Stand in line and 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 difference 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."

That song reminds me of how the whole country seemed to turn to God. For just a moment on the timline of the world, we united in prayer. We read scripture. We were kind to each other. We loved strangers. For just a brief second in time, we were one.

When there is a funeral people always say they hate that it took a tragedy to bring them together. I guess that's how I feel about 9/11. We have gone our own ways. Kids today don't even remember the occurrence. We found a place of safety in our country again, and a sense of apathy about the war and the soldiers.

But every now and then, I go back to that day, and I ask myself, "Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?"

Never. Forget.

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