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Our hearts were still breaking when Alan Jackson stepped onstage at the 2001 CMA Awards and sang an ode to a day we just wanted to forget.

But once the song was over, we all realized that, maybe, it was time to make it a day we will always want to remember.

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On Sept. 11, the cruelty of life was met with the incredible love of an entire nation. And just two months later, country music found a way to put that love into a song.

“I didn’t intend on writing a song about that day because I just didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do or not,” Alan says in a brand-new CMA interview about his groundbreaking song “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning.)” “That song just came out of nowhere. It was a Godsend. And even after that I was reluctant about recording it, and I didn’t know if people around me were going to do it and I felt like I should do it.”

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And “do it” is exactly what he did. But performing it live in front of a still mourning CMA Awards audience was something entirely different. “I was hesitant and reluctant if I should do the song or on an album or live,” he says. “It was a nervous performance of course the first time live in front of everybody on television. In retrospect, I realize that it was a good thing for the show and all the people that have told me how much the song affected them and how it still does today.”

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