Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

Updated on September 11, 2018
Ellison Hartley profile image

Ellison is a park ranger's daughter and farmer's daughter with a love for all things agriculture and outdoors.

Those are the words that Alan Jackon asked of all of us, after the tragedy on September 11, 2001. I always thought it was strange to hear my parents and Grandparents talk about those "where were you when?" situations. For my parent's generation, it was when they found out that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and assassinated. For my Grandparent's they remembered where they were when they heard about the assassination of JFK, but they also remembered where they were when they found out that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.

For my generation, we had never had any of those moments, and I know I never fully understood what they meant when they said that finding out something happened would be so impactful that you would remember where you were when you heard it. After September 11, 2001, I understand what they meant.

So, Where Was I?

On September 11, 2001, I was a senior at Chesapeake High School. At the time the announcement came on I was in Mr.Whewell's creative writing class( my favorite class by the way). Each day we would begin the class by writing a journal entry on a random topic that Mr. Whewell had written on the board. It was the beginning of the class, and that is what we were all doing.

The Principal came over the loudspeaker, it was rare for this to happen a second time in the morning. Since we had just had morning announcements a little while ago.

You have to remember that in 2001 it was before the dawn of students carrying around cell phones with internet access that notified you with a beep whenever any news came up. When the announcement came over the loudspeaker, it was the first time that we heard the news.

They didn't give us a lot of details. Just that a plane had hit the world trade center in New York, he didn't use the word terrorist attack at that point. At that point, everyone thought it was a terrible tragedy, we didn't know that it was on purpose. They didn't tell us in the initial announcement that they were sending us home early. Just gave us the facts of what had happened.

I guess as more information developed and it was realized that we were attacked by terrorists on our own soil, that is when they got on the loudspeaker and said the buses were coming to pick us up from school and bring us home early.

Normally I would have walked to the farm to ride my horse after school, but instead, I rode the bus home, to the park where my family was living at the time for my Dad's job.

There was a lot of chatter on the bus about the attacks and what it meant.... a bunch of nonsense from high schoolers who had no idea what was going on.

When I got to the park and got off the bus, I had a bit of a walk back to our house.

The Walk Home

On that walk home from the bus stop, it was the first time that I had ever considered that I might not be safe in this country. I mean, we are taught this is America, the greatest nation in the world right? No other country would dare do anything to us right?

I will admit I was walking fast and my mind was racing since I did not understand what was going on. The school obviously didn't want to panic us, so they told us the bare minimum, which made it easy for my mind to wander even more.

When I got home, my Dad was there, he had the T.V on, with the news coverage. I asked him about what was going on. He told me that it was a terrorist attack.

A What?

I don't know if just being young and not paying attention to the news, I had never heard of a terrorist attack before, I honestly didn't even know what a terrorist was.

Between my Dad's explanation and the television, I got it, that these terrorists had deliberately done this to us. Attacked us on our own soil. What will happen next I asked my Dad? He said he wasn't sure but he knew it wasn't going to be good.

The Other Things I Remember

I remember my mind racing, thinking non stop about what had happened and what the news was saying. How could someone do something like this? I prayed for the families of those who lost loved ones and for the safety of the first responders, and military.

I remember worrying about what could happen, but mostly just was in shock at what happened. What kind of heartless person would do something like this, and hurt so many innocent people?

9-11 was the first time that it ever occurred to me that even though we live in the greatest country in the world, anything can happen. We have soldiers all over the world, doing there best to make sure that everyone here at home will be safe, and able to live their lives without fear. There are people in many countries who do not have that luxury. I thought about what it must be like to live in fear all the time. I thought about how lucky I was to be an American.

What I Think You Should Do Today

I think you should remember where you were when the world stopped turning, remember how it felt, being unsure and afraid, think of the lives lost. Sit quietly for a moment and reflect.

Pray for our leaders to have the strength of mind and knowledge to make the right decisions when it comes to protecting our freedom.

Pray for the safety of our military as they defend our country. If you know one, thank a soldier or a veteran. I don't know about you, but I'm proud to be American. Proud and grateful that we have the brave men and women in our military who are willing to make sacrifices, sometimes the ultimate sacrifice, to defend our freedom.

I will never forget where I was on 9/11/2001 and Neither Should You

September 11 should be a day of remembrance for all the lives lost both on that day and in the war against terrorism. It should be a day of gratitude for the fact that we get to live in this country. It should be a day we honor our active duty military, veterans, and first responders. It should be a day we appreciate everything we have, family, friends, homes, pets, jobs, literally everything we have, because freedom isn't free.

Questions & Answers


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      • Ellison Hartley profile imageAUTHOR

        Ellison Hartley 

        4 weeks ago from Maryland, USA

        Thank you so much for reading my article. I know everyone has their own personal experience or memories of it, and I thought today would be an appropriate day to share mine. And your welcome about the prayer requests. My boyfriend ( who is a 21-year army veteran) and I pray daily for our military, first responders and government leaders.

      • RTalloni profile image


        4 weeks ago from the short journey

        Thank you for highlighting the day by sharing your memories because it is important for our nation to remember how we changed that day as well as how we did not change. Thank you just as much for adding the important prayer requests.


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