“Where were you when the world stopped turnin’ that September day?”
The first line of Alan Jackson’s song asks a seemingly simple question.
“Were you 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?”
Jackson wrote "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" just days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The words resonate with everyone who clearly remembers the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
The lyrics are poignant today – 18 years later – as the nation remembers the nearly 3,000 lives lost when terrorists hijacked American jetliners to crash into both World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. All passengers on the planes were killed.
North County senior Allyson Cline doesn’t remember the details of Sept. 11, 2001, but the day holds significance for her. It was the day she was born.
She said having her birthday on Sept. 11 has certainly played an important role in her life as to how her birthday has been celebrated.
“Forever, I will be connected to the events that unfolded on that tragic day,” said Allyson.
She said people are usually apologetic when they find out what day her birthday is.
“I definitely get a little emotional because I know this is one of our country’s biggest tragedies but it holds a special meaning for my family and me,” she said.
Allyson said she will always remember celebrating her fifth birthday because it was on the same day of Staff Sgt. Michael Deason’s funeral. He was killed on Aug. 31, 2006, while fighting in Iraq. Deason went to school with Allyson’s dad, Chris, at North County.
Allyson celebrated with a party at the Farmington Community Civic Center. As they were leaving her party, she recalled watching the funeral procession pass by and seeing the American flag.
“My dad said it was because of the sacrifice that Sgt. Deason made that I got to choose to have a SpongeBob birthday party that year,” she said. “It was because of him we have the freedom we do. That really had a lasting impact on me.”
She felt her parents, Chris and Paula Cline, tried to shield her from the horrendous events of Sept. 11. As she got older and had even more questions about what happened on that day, Allyson questioned how there could be that much hatred in the world that would drive people to take innocent lives.
“They told me, ‘There’s evil in this world and you are fortunate to live in a country that protects our freedom,’” she said.
Allyson is now a senior at North County High School and has a special trip planned with family and friends to celebrate her 18th birthday.
Chris Cline experienced sorrow, anger and joy all in one day after he learned of the terrorist attacks and then welcomed his beautiful daughter later that day. He recalled his wife’s aunt bought Allyson a teddy bear at the hospital gift shop that said, “The day God danced.”
“God danced with my emotions that day,” said Chris. “I remember lying in the hospital room after she was born, wondering what kind of world is she coming into. Nothing would ever be the same."
Since that day, life has been a balance. They’ve tried to make Allyson’s birthday a celebration while being mindful of the events which transpired that day and “remember and honor those we lost as well.”
He said as Allyson has gotten older, she has learned the significance of what her birthday means to so many, and she understands and appreciates that.
Matthew Clifton was almost 15 months old when the events of Sept. 11 occurred.
“I was only 1 when it happened, but I understand how much of a tragedy it was for our country,” said Clifton. “It changed our nation forever.”
He said he has learned from his parents’ explanation and from information he has read about 9/11's events that even though “the nation was in shambles trying to rebuild and recover from the attack, our nation stood tall and strong in the wake of terror.”
Clifton said Americans’ patriotism and pride “increased at an amazing rate because people knew the best way to recover was to come together as one united nation and to become even stronger because of the attacks.”
“While this was a terrible day in our nation’s history, it’s also a memorable one to show how great and resilient our country truly is,” he said.
Maria Sansoucie was a brand-new fourth-grade teacher in her classroom at West County Elementary School on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
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She had just gone into the teachers' workroom to make copies when the morning's events unfolded. Her principal, Todd Watson, informed her that a plane had struck the first tower. At this time, reports were still unclear as to whether the attack had been a planned event.
Sanscoucie did not tell her fourth graders about the events that day. Her students were only 9 and 10 years old, which she felt was too young to fully understand what was going on.
“I didn’t want to fill them with fear without being able to give them answers,” she said.
She remembered the day was “very somber and uncertain.”
Internet wasn’t readily available like it is today, so they weren’t able to get updates about what was going on elsewhere in the U.S.
“I just remember the fear this tragic event caused people all across America,” said Sansoucie, now a sixth-grade math and eighth-grade English teacher at West County Middle School. “People were so frantic and fearful of what would happen next. I feel like Americans were sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to see what would be the next tragic event. It took quite some time for things to settle back down and return to ‘normal.’”
Adam Hector was a sixth-grade English teacher at Potosi in 2001. His students were working on a writing assignment and he was looking up information on Yahoo for a book he needed for a college class when he saw the breaking news headlines.
Hector called the teachers near his classroom to the hall to tell them the news about the “accident.”
Minutes later, they learned the events were not accidental but acts of terrorism. They told students what was happening just before lunch and watched news coverage of the tragic events afterward.
“I told them that it was very early but it seemed that a group had hijacked some planes and purposely flew them into buildings in New York and D.C.,” said Hector.
He had question-and-answer time with the students before and after the news coverage.
Ironically, Hector said the students’ questions were the same: Why? They wanted to know why someone wanted to do that to innocent people, why someone wanted to do that to the U.S., and what had Americans done that was so bad to have this happen to them.
“It seems like it was just a few years ago and very hard to realize the students in school now were not even born, much less have a memory of 9/11,” he said. “It still brings tears to my eyes each year to think about the hate that people have to hurt innocent people because of where they live. How do they justify doing an act of hate?”
St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock was sitting at his kitchen table drinking coffee when he first learned that an airplane had crashed through the twin towers.
Immediately, local and national law enforcement agencies went on high alert because they didn’t know if there would be more strikes or other events.
“We didn’t have a clue as to what would happen next,” said Bullock.
He said they encouraged the media outlets and others to alert law enforcement if they saw anything suspicious.
“That’s been our motto since that day,” he said. “Watch your surroundings. If you see something, say something and let us check it out.”
Bullock said for himself and so many others around the country, they were in shock and devastated.
“I thought ‘this can’t be happening,’” he said, “but it certainly did.”
He said since 9/11, communication among federal, state and municipal government has improved. “We share a lot more information now than we did prior to 9/11,” he said.
Bullock said one of the biggest things that still stands out in his mind is the flags.
“Flags went up everywhere,” he said. “Everywhere you went, you could see the American flag. Now it seems like we’ve forgotten that day in some ways. People aren’t nearly as patriotic as they were immediately following 9/11.”
He said he is grateful for St. Francois County's support for police, fire and EMS who are usually honored this time of year by local churches and organizations.
“It’s good to know their support hasn’t completely faded and I’m really proud of that,” he said. “I’d really like to see our flag and that patriotism in our nation return. It was a wonderful thing to see back then and I’d like to see it in our daily lives again.”