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Where Were Your Favorite Country Artists On 9/11?

September 11, 2018

Never Forget. Work, school, just waking up, we all know where we were and what we were doing on this day 17 years ago. Taste Of Country let us know where our favorite artists were on this day 17 years ago

Brooks & Dunn watched in horror, and a few days later they had to play a show. "Only in America" was their single, and prior to the show Dunn said he realized how the song begins: "Sun coming up, in New York City." The audience's loud, jubilant reaction of shouts and cheers stopped the two veterans cold. And it'd continue like that for weeks.

More Country Stars Share Their Memories of 9/11

Eric Church - "I was driving into work — the Shop at Home Network. I really couldn’t grasp what had happened until I got to work and saw it for myself on television. I remember I watched the second plane hit the tower in real time," Eric Church tells CMT. "I had just moved to Nashville earlier that year, and all I remember is wanting to go home and be with those I loved. I’ll never forget that feeling."

Taylor Swift - "I was in fifth grade, and all I remember was, they had us all get together in the lunch room for an assembly, and they were explaining it to us, but I didn't understand what they were talking about until I walked down the hall, and I saw all the teachers looking up at their TVs in their classrooms, crying," says Taylor Swift of her experience discovering what had happened. "People were getting their kids out of school, and I think it was my parents that really explained it to me in great detail, and it was just horrifying."

Alan Jackson - "The first plane had already hit. I was standing there when the second one hit," Alan Jackson tells Christianity Today about his inspiration to write "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." "I didn't want to write a patriotic song, and I didn't want it to be vengeful, either. But I didn't want to forget about how I felt and how I knew other people felt that day."

Charles Kelley - "That's my birthday, believe it or not," Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley says. "I was in college, and it was wild. I woke up was getting ready to go to class, and I had a roommate come in and say, 'Man, turn on the TV. Classes are cancelled. You won't believe [it].' He had had an earlier class, and he comes in and said, 'Turn on the TV!' And we all got up and watched it. It was just wild," he adds. "You know, it's hard to put into words, but you know, I can remember it, and everybody can. It had such a huge effect on everybody."

Toby Keith - "I was in my gym working out about six or seven days after the attack on the U.S. and got to thinking about how everybody’s written these songs about the sorrow we’ve gone through and how bad we feel about it, but nobody has put one together about how angry we are," Toby Keith recalls about writing "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American).” So I thought about my dad, being the veteran he was and the flag-flying patriot he was. He served in the Army. He did lose his right eye. He did come home, and he never did gripe about it. So that’s the reason I wrote the song — for him."

Craig Morgan - "We were just overwhelmed. We had no idea. It was actually into the next morning when we found out what was going on," Craig Morgan tells Taste of Country about finding out about the 9/11 terrorist attacks after a full day of hunting in the Midwest, with limited access to the news. "As soon as we realized what had happened, we went back to camp, we packed everything up, and we got in our rental car and drove all the way back to Nashville without notifying the rental car company, because I was still in the active Reserves."

Miranda Lambert - "I was a sophomore in high school," Miranda Lambert tells Taste of Country. "I was in the choir, and I remember even in my little bitty town of East Texas — in Lindale, Texas — there was kids leavin’ school because their loved ones had been injured or killed in 9/11, so it affected so many people and so many lives, and it’ll never be forgotten as long as I live. I’ll always remember where I was and that feeling.”

Sara Evans - “I was in Venice, Italy, on 9/11. Such a strange and scary experience to have been in a foreign country when my home was under attack," says Sara Evans. "I'll never forget finally being able to get my mother on the phone! We both cried at hearing each other's voice! I didn't know when, if ever, I would get home again."

Martina McBride - "I was at home in Nashville, and my husband called me on the phone and said, ‘You need to turn on the TV because you’re not gonna believe what’s happened,'" Martina McBride recounts to CMT. "So I ran out and turned on the television, and he said he was coming home. He came home, and we sat there for about the next three or four hours just completely in shock and watching everything happen like the rest of the nation did that day. This was really the first event in my lifetime that happened that made me really realize the pride that I have in being an American and being part of this amazing country." 

Ronnie Dunn - "The event in New York occurred on the 11th, and I believe we had a show on the 13th or 14th," says Ronnie Dunn of performing "Only in America" just days after the attacks. "About 30 minutes before the show, it hit me that the first line in the show is, 'Sun comin’ up over New York City.' The crowd was so loud every occasion that we did it that we had to stop. Then we went on after that, and then the audience was a sea of American flags."

Gary Allan - He had performed in Switzerland on Sept. 10, 2001, and flew to London, England, on Sept. 11. He tells The Boot that he was doing an interview on the BBC when he first learned what was going on, and got stuck in London for two weeks waiting to be allowed to fly home. "I thought it was very interesting to be in another country when something went so wrong with our country because I didn't realize the American slant we get to our news," Allan remembers. "We don't ever hear all the stuff we did to cause things; we're just like, 'Oh my gosh, we got bombed!' But hearing another country talk about all the things that Carter did and Reagan did and some things to bring this thing full-circle was very interesting, but it was also very scary to not be home when things were going wrong."

Charlie Daniels - "It was one of the most confusing days of my life, and in the lives of all Americans," Charlie Daniels tells Taste of Country. "It was a day the world changed, and we started to realize how very vulnerable we had allowed ourselves to become over the years, and how very foolish we had been by doing that."

Keith Urban - "It probably reiterated to me the importance of enjoying life while we do have it," Keith Urban reflects to CMT. "Because life is much, much shorter than we all think and can be taken from us in a blink of an eye. So, you know, you’ve gotta put food on the table. You’ve got to satisfy your career aspirations. But I think you have to keep it in perspective with also living life."

Hillary Scott - "It's one of those things that's forever ingrained in your memory," says Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum. "And I actually had a close friend of mine -- it's actually my godsister's dad -- [he] has been in the military, and he's retired now. But he was on his way to the Pentagon and didn't get there ... but it's just, I think everyone has that personal connection to it no matter if you knew someone there or not."

Scotty McCreery - “I was in second grade, and the principal came over the intercom and said, 'Teachers, please stop what you’re doing and go check your emails,'" Scotty McCreery tells Taste of Country. "We found out that the teachers were told not to turn the TVs, not to do anything, that they were told through the emails what happened. The fifth graders, they were the big dogs at the elementary school, and they got to watch the news. But us second graders, we didn’t get to find out. We got home that day, and Mom pulled me in the living room … I remember it like it was yesterday.”

Josh Turner - "It was like a movie. Honestly, it was like watching a movie all day long," Josh Turner remembers. "I remember thinking, ‘This can’t be real, this can’t be real.’ And just to think that so many people in that building had to choose between jumping out of the building or burning up. It’s like they had to choose their form of death. It was an extremely tragic day for our country. And I’m always an optimist, too — I try to look at what good can come out of this — and the good thing that came out of that was, it brought it our country together. And it really kind of boosted our patriotism," he adds. "A lot of times, it’s good that we can have that, but it’s sad that it takes an event like 9/11 to do that."

Big Kenny (Big & Rich) - "I was laying on my mattress on the floor of my apartment in Nashville … woke up to the morning news and just couldn't believe my eyes. I felt great sorrow," remembers Big Kenny of Big & Rich. "A few days later, John Rich and I got on a plane. We would not let fear invade our lives. Airports, of course, were in a state of emergency at that time."

Eddie Montgomery - "I had just gotten off the road and got in my truck and was headed to the little store to hang out that morning and had the radio on in my truck when they broke in with the news," says Eddie Montgomery from Montgomery Gentry. "I ran into the store and told them to turn on the TV, and we just watched in disbelief. I'm still not over it. A lot of a great Americans died that day."

Zac Brown - "It was right around September 11; I was living with a Marine friend of mine. I was realizing how fortunate we are to be free, travel and to play music or whatever it is that you do as an American -- that there is a cost that other people have paid for us to be able to do those things and enjoy all the simple things," Zac Brown says of adding a patriotic theme to "Chicken Fried." "That’s where the patriotic line of the song came from. Sometimes all of the little things get taken for granted, and you forget about them. They’re the most important things in life. It was a reminder to myself and a reminder to everybody else to not take the little things for granted or the simple pleasures that really matter."

Kenny Chesney - He told CMT that he was supposed to be in New York City, "basically a block away from the World Trade Center," on 9/11: "We played a fair in Pennsylvania on Sept. 10, and we were supposed to have driven from Pennsylvania into New York City that night and start shooting my video that morning," he recalls. Fortunately, those plans had been canceled just a couple of weeks prior. I think we were traveling through Virginia, and I went up to the front of the bus and turned the TV on to CNN and saw what had happened," Chesney remembers. "It didn’t hit me at first. I was laying on the couch, just watching this and couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and I thought, 'Oh, my God.' I said, 'We’re supposed to be there.' And it was a weird feeling."