Where were you when the world stopped turning?

Where were you when the world stopped turnin’
That September day?
Out 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?–Alan Jackson

Fifteen years ago, we had just moved into our house. I was working as a cashier at SuperTarget then and driving a beat up 92 Buick Skylark who was affectionately called Bucki. I had turned on the cassette deck (yes, Bucki had a cassette deck still) because I was going to put in a tape. The radio was set to a station I sometimes listened to and the host (who was known for pulling bad, very not even close to tasteful pranks) said something about a plane flying into a building. I thought it was a joke until they switched to ABC World News. I drove the rest of the way to work on autopilot. The area where the employees clocked in was a sort of reception area where the store’s phonecalls were answered and I remember numbly asking the two people who sat there if they’d heard the news. I don’t remember what they said, if they said anything. I clocked in and went to my register, where I called my manager. I knew we kept a few battery powered radios in the back for bad weather and I asked her if I could have one at my register. She told me no. Then she said the most callous thing I think I’d ever heard. She told me it was a hoax and that nothing had actually happened and that we should all just get back to work because nobody had died, nobody had done ANYTHING since it was all a big fake planned by the media.

I remember at one point asking if I could go home…the manager on duty for the store said NOBODY was going anywhere. We were going to stay open as usual. Except for a small flurry of customers who came in around one pm after the mall across the street closed, our store was dead as doornails all day. I remember asking every customer who came through my line (and there weren’t many) if they had any new information, explaining that nobody was telling us anything . One lady gave me a piece of gum because she said I looked nervous and thought maybe it would help. When my lunch break came, I sat in the break room and somebody had a radio. I remember listening, but I don’t recall a thing that was said.

All I could think was, “Are we next? Is Dallas next?” because we live only an hour from Dallas and only a half hour from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. We have our own world trade center..I had my senior prom in high school there. All I could think is that we were next..they were going to hit us next and then what?

I went home that night..not knowing what to expect. We ordered pizza and watched the evening news where I saw the footage of the planes flying into the buildings. I started crying.

My birthday happened to come eight days later and I didn’t know if it was OK to celebrate. For weeks afterwards, I stopped watching anything that might be remotely funny on TV because I didn’t know if it was OK to laugh. I listened to Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When The World Stopped  Turning?” and Jewel’s “Hands” almost constantly. Eventually I got to a point where I could sing along and not burst into tears.

Fifteen years ago..I thought we were safe.


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