After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, country star Alan Jackson wrote "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." The song was released barely two months later, before appearing on his album Drive. Although the track was a big hit at the time, Jackson revealed that it took some convincing for him to release the song in a new interview published just before the 20th anniversary of the attacks.
In an interview with his record label UMG Nashville, Jackson said he did not even think he would record it after writing the song. "When I first wrote it, I didn't think I would record it... and then we didn't think we would want to release it," Jackson said, reports Taste of Country. "At first, I didn't think I would ever write a song about the event because I just didn't feel right about it, and then this came out of nowhere."
Jackson performed "Where Were You" publicly for the first time at the Country Music Association's awards show on Nov. 7, 2001, and the track was released as a single a few weeks later. In January 2002, it appeared on Jackson's album Drive. "Where Were You" won Song of the Year at the ACM and CMA awards and won Best Country Song at the Grammys. It was also nominated for the Grammy Song of the Year. It was a huge hit con the charts, spending five weeks on the top of the country radio charts.
The CMAs performance "made me very proud, but I thought [the song] would probably go away in a couple of years and I wouldn't be playing it on the road anymore," Jackson told Yahoo Entertainment in another interview this week. Jackson wrote the song barely a week before the CMAs. He said he woke up in the middle of the night with the chorus just "coming out of my mouth" almost exactly as it was later written.
"And then the next day I started piecing all those verses together, all the thoughts I'd had or visuals I'd had," Jackson recalled. "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... Those verses were just straight out of my mind, all those visual images I'd had watching the news, all the stories about how people were dealing with it. And there it was."
Twenty years later, Jackson believes releasing the song was the best move. He believes the song has become important in other ways, not just connected to Sept. 11, 2001. "Now it's kinda grown into just its own song outside of 9/11, where it's just a song about faith and hope and love," Jackson told UMG Nashville. "And I see that in the crowds now: A lot of my fans, younger fans, weren't hardly even around when the 9/11 happened, but they have connected with that song, and it's one of the highlights of the show now." The song's continued appeal is "amazing," Jackson said, adding that it has "outlived where it really began."