Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

The World Trade Center on fire on September 11, 2001.

This is off the topic of website design, but since it is that time of year I thought I would reminisce about where I was on the day of September 11, 2001.

In the spring of 2001, I had been laid off from my job. I wasn’t alone. Nearly half of the workforce of the company that I worked for had been laid off in a downsizing, and since I was relatively new and the low man on the totem pole I did not make the cut. Rather than accepting an offer for a full-time position from another company, I decided to take the adventure of going freelance as a graphic designer. I had already been freelancing on the side while working full-time and some other work-from-home opportunities came available for me just at the right time.

The morning of September 11, I woke up ready to get some work done for one of my regular clients. However, something drew me to turn on the television that morning to check the news. I tuned in after the first tower had been struck, but before the second tower was struck and before they both collapsed. Needless to say, I did not get much work done that day.

I sat there mesmerized and wondering whether my country was about to go to war. I worried that the attacks would happen nationally, and whether living in Colorado Springs with our many military installations would make us a target. And I was very sad and burdened by what I was watching. To this day, the thing that makes me the most emotional is the images of people jumping out of windows to their death in order to avoid the intense heat of the jet fuel.

Near lunch time, I began thinking of my mother who lived in town. I called her to see if she was okay, and I could tell that she was having a hard time with it. So I left my house and headed over to see her. When she opened the door, we just hugged each other for a few minutes and let out our emotions. We spent most of the afternoon together, talking and watching the news for the latest information. It was very eerie that day. All the radio stations were broadcasting information and playing patriotic songs like Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to be an American.” I learned that song in elementary school and can still sing most of it. Funny how it only gets played at times like these.

After that day, some good and some bad things happened. The good? People were much more open in their love for America, displaying flags on their cars and in their homes. It also reminded us once again of the frailty of life and the importance of telling the ones you love how you feel about them. Even though it led us to war against the terrorists, I feel that it brought our country together in many ways. I am not old enough to remember Pearl Harbor, but as a fan of history I love the Franklin Delano Roosevelt “Day of Infamy” speech. Just as then, our generation has now experienced a “day that will live in infamy.” No longer should we rest on our laurels, thinking that America is safe from the dangers that so many people in the world experience all the time.

Of course, there were many bad things that happened as a result of that day. Most importantly, we lost nearly 3,000 unique and irreplaceable people in the attacks. We ended up in multiple wars where we lost even more of our noblest countrymen. New York City was devastated and our country entered a recession that forced many people out of their jobs.

The recession took it’s toll on me as well. The freelance jobs that had been giving me regular work began to dry up. By 2002, I was forced to take a contract job as a photography assistant at my former employer. This turned out to be a great blessing for me because I eventually was re-hired to a graphic designer position very similar to the one I had been laid off from a year earlier. I had come full circle.

I hear stories from many others about where they were the day the towers fell. Every person seems to have a story they want to share, and each story is interesting in it’s own way. There’s a great song by Alan Jackson that talks about that day better than I could ever express it:

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children or working 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 who lost their dear loved ones and 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 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

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children or driving 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 loved her? Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened, close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages or speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow or 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?
Did you 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.
And the greatest is love.
And the greatest is love.

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

Image courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.