“Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Out in the yard with your wife and children
Working on some stage in LA
Did you stand there in shock at the site of
That black smoke rising against that blue sky
Did you shout out in anger
In fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry”…
Where Were You – written and performed by Alan Jackson
On September 10th, 2001 I was in Calgary at the Canadian Country Music Awards. It was awesome. We had so much fun and partied well into the night. We had some award winners with us that night, so we were howling at the moon and had a few visits from security asking us to be a little quieter.. We finally shut ‘er down in the wee hours of the morning.
After very little sleep.. about 9am …the phone rang. It was my friend Kirk (he’d been at the party the night before) saying “TURN ON THE TV!”. I argued with him, thinking it was something about the awards show .. I was sleepy and didn’t feel like it.. but finally turned on the television.
Planes crashing. People dying. Buildings falling.
The world, indeed, had stopped turning.
We quickly found out that our flights scheduled for that day.. and everyone else’s .. had been cancelled. We were now in Calgary indefinitely.
I spent the day watching television. As everyone did. We were staying at the Palliser Hotel .. they quickly set up the lobby and restaurants with as many tv’s as possible. We were glued to them. Everyone needed to make sense of this. We needed to know. We needed answers.
Many people that I knew had friends or family in New York that they couldn’t reach. I couldn’t even imagine their pain.
My concern was that I couldn’t get back to my children. I was married at the time. I called the friend watching them and she was of course understood. I called the school and the principal explained that even though Mommy and Daddy were supposed to be on a plane, we were safe.
In the meantime I had several friends who had been planning to fly out that morning and couldn’t. They had no place to stay so ended up on the floor to our hotel suite. We weren’t put out. We were lucky. And alive.
It was mind numbing. I don’t think I have to tell anyone that.
We were in Calgary and felt impotent. All we could do was wait. Then I got a call.
Several friends of mine decided to gather all the artists “stuck” in Calgary and do a charity show. All money going to the firefighter association. I was asked to help.
Chas Hay, Mike Lesperance and Randall Prescott were organizing the show. Every artist still in Calgary was willing to participate. They got a hall at the University.. organized the artists.. we brought people to the radio station to publicize it. On September 13th, we had a show.
But it wasn’t a concert. It was a vigil. A remembrance to those who had died. And a celebration of the lives that had been sacrificed.
People attending were asked to make a contribution. Most threw in $20. at least. I can’t even remember how much money was raised.
Every artist that was still in Calgary participated. Everyone on the bill did something appropriate to the occasion. Jamie Warren, Julian Austin, Thomas Wade and Chris Cummings did “Let it Be”.. Beverley Mahood, Giselle and Particia Conroy did “Angel”.. Jann Arden graciously made an appearance. Carolyn Dawn Johnson did a song about someone leaving on a plane and not knowing if they are ever going to see that person again. I bawled.
Tons of other artists were there.. I just can’t remember them all.
CMT taped it. And all the reactions. I personally think it was the best work they have ever done.
Afterwards, we all got together and partied. Sounds bad.. but I think the joy that we were all alive………
A show featuring dozens of artists was put together in mere hours. No egos. No backbiting. No money squabbles. Everyone pulling together and comforting one another.
9-11 makes me think. I remember. It made me rethink things about my own life.
The world didn’t stop turning,. it just turns differently. We’re all different as a result.
I hope that no one ever forgets where they were on 9/11. I won’t.