‘Where were you (when the world stopped turning)’ on Sept. 11, 2001?

By Don Coble don@opcfla.com
Posted 9/8/21

“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?Were you in the yard with your wife and childrenOr working on some stage in L.A.?Did you stand there in shockAt the sight of …

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‘Where were you (when the world stopped turning)’ on Sept. 11, 2001?


“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working 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?”

- Alan Jackson

CLAY COUNTY – There are moments in history that forever will be engrained in society’s memory. For some, it’s the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. For others, it was the day John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated or the day when the United States landed on the moon.
For many, especially in the Southeast, it was the day Dale Earnhardt died on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Or maybe it was the mass suicide of Jim Jones followers in Guyana, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by two anti-government radicals or the morning Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff from Cape Canaveral.

Just close your eyes and remember. The memories are still fresh, like it just happened.
For most, it’s the day 19 terrorists armed with box cutters and mace hijacked four U.S. airliners in the worst attack on U.S. soil.
It started at Logan International Airport in Boston when American Airlines Flight 11 is pushed back from the gate at 7:40 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, United Flight 175 leaves its gate at Logan. At 8:20 a.m., American Flight 77 leaves Washington’s Dulles International Airport, while United Flight 93 departs from Newark International Airport 22 minutes after that.
The world then braced for one of the worst attacks against humanity at 8:46 a.m. when Flight 11 was flown directly into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Flight 175 then hit South Tower. Flight 77 skipped off the parking lot and into the side of the Pentagon, while passengers rush the cockpit and force terrorists to fly Flight 93 into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
It took 77 minutes for 19 al-Qaeda militants to kill 2,977 innocent people and create long-term illnesses for thousands more.
News of the attack was forever branded into our memories – and history. If you were alive, you remember exactly where you were. We reached out to find out what you were doing, the moment when the world stopped turning. Here’s what you had to say:

Randy Anderson, Mayor of Orange Park:
“I was on deployment onboard the USS Enterprise in the Persian Gulf on our way back home from a six-month deployment. What do I remember about that day? I was in the ready room watching CNN when both planes crashed into the Twin Towers. I couldn’t believe what was happening. At that time the captain of the ship came over the intercom system and announced we were being delayed on going home and was diverted to another location awaiting orders from the Chain of Command.”

Jim, a former airline pilot from Middleburg:
I was a pilot for US Airways and I was in Philadelphia. We had already off-loaded our passengers and we were on-boarding a little bit after 9 o’clock. A passenger came by, we greet them as they come through the door, and said ‘Did you hear about the plane hitting the Trade Center?’ Passengers will typically tell you a joke as they go by, but he walked off. I thought that was odd. About 10 minutes later, the gate agent came down and said get everybody off the airplane. We got everybody off. Fifteen minutes later, we were pushing all of the passengers outside the Philadelphia airport. The little burger places were told to shut down. Don’t take anything off [the grill], nothing. Leave it. The only thing you had left in the airport were flight crews and mechanics. It was odd.”
Andrea Potts, restaurant server from Green Cove Springs: “I was in fifth grade. I remember seeing it on TV. I don’t remember much about my emotions. I know we got to go home early from school. Now that I’m older, obviously, my feelings have changed. When it happened, and for a couple years after that, I really didn’t understand why.”
Michelle Cook, Clay County Sheriff: “I was at the University of North Florida as an adjunct Professor. When a student walked in and told us what happened, I asked anyone in the military in my class to please stand up. I thanked them for their service and told them that they need to report to duty, as America was about to go to war. The other students gave them a round of applause as they gathered their books to leave. I told the rest of the class to go home and hug their families.”
Ryan a shopper from Green Cove Springs: “Yeah, I remember that day. I was heading to work and heard it on the radio. They were saying a plane had hit,  you know, the first building. There was a lot of speculation and everything at that time, what had happened, and then the second plane hit and that’s when we all kind of knew [it was a terrorist attack].”

“Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
Pray for the ones who don’t know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?

Did you burst out with pride
For the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died
Just doin’ what they do?

Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?”

Michael Fisher, Clay County Fire and Rescue fireman:

“I was just talking about this to my crew. I was working at the seafood shop, this fish warehouse in St. Augustine, getting the fish off the boats, scaling them, cleaning them, delivering them to the restaurants. I was on the way to work and I never listened to the radio but I had it on for some reason and I was hearing that a plane hit the tower. The first one was before 9 a.m. and my work started at that time. When I got there, everyone was talking about it and boom, we had the radio on and we heard a second plane had hit. Before you knew it, we heard the Pentagon was hit and everything else and it seemed like yeah, the nation was under attack. I remember them saying on the radio, ‘we’re under attack’ and it just escalated from there.”
Tina Lewis, Hagan Ace Hardware employee in Green Cove Springs: “We were in Kaneohe, Hawaii, because my husband was stationed on the Marines base there and so we were so many hours behind and by the time I had woken up, the buildings had already collapsed and everything had already happened. It was scary because we were on a military base and when I got up to finally leave for work that morning, there were tanks out and snipers on buildings and it was just very scary. By the time I woke up, the towers had already fallen and they already knew it was a terrorist attack. We were probably five or six hours behind.”

John Ward, Clay County Director of Emergency Management:

“I was on duty with the fire department at Clay County Fire Rescue on Camp Blanding. Camp Blanding actually went into a lockdown. I remember very much so where I was on that day.”
Matt Johnson, Vice Mayor for City of Green Cove Springs: “For those of us who’ve been around for a while, we all remember 9/11 – where we were, what happened, the shock and awe of America being attacked. It changed my military career. Everything from that point on was about Iraq and Afghanistan and places like that. That day began with the narrative of hometown heroes. It began with firefighters, with police officers who responded to the call. These were true American patriots.”
Beth Cresswell, a former teacher from Fleming Island who now lives in Tennessee: “I was teaching at Ridgeview High School and I had my students out on the P.E. field. When we came back into the classroom, all the teachers had their TVs on. There was nothing but stunned silence. For the rest of that day, we kind of sat with our students. We really didn’t do normal classes. We got through the day and everybody came home. We were all glued to our TV and were just stunned.”

“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate?

Did you feel guilty
‘Cause you’re a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother
And tell her you loved her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?

Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you’re watchin’
And turn on “I Love Lucy” reruns?

Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Stand in line and give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?”

Jenny and Chris Cresswell of Fleming Island:

Jenny – “We moved to Los Angeles a couple years [before the attack]. We had been living on Manhattan. We had complete perspective of what was going on. We woke up because it was on the West Coast. It was a little bit before 6 [a.m.] we automatically put on the “Today” show. The first plane had already hit. We didn’t know what it was. They thought it might have been a wayward plane.”
Chris – “I had genuine concern for all of my friends. Not knowing for a long time was tough. Somebody I knew had to die in there. I had that thought.”

Dana Mariner-Thompson and Dawn Mariner-Thompson of Orange Park:

Dana – “She was in the military doing training in Pensacola when her class heard about it. They shut everything down. The only TV they had in the whole academy; everybody was watching it. I was working for U-Haul in Virginia. We had all the people come into the office to watch it.”
Dawn – “We were locked down until 8, 8:30 at night. Finally got to go home. The next morning, I got up and I left the house at 4:30 [a.m.] and I didn’t get to my job on the base until almost noon. Security. I didn’t have a cellphone back then. I had to borrow somebody’s cellphone to let somebody know I was at the gate and wasn’t getting in. It was hard because a lot of our students came from all over. We actually had students who had family in the World Trade Center. It was quite an experience to try and console them when you weren’t getting any information.”

Erin West, City Clerk of Green Cove Springs:

“I was a senior in high school. We had passed our standardized testing. We had a college visit, a work visit that day. I had that morning off. I was at home getting ready for school and they hit the [first] tower. I know that’s all we watched when I got to school that day. Every class I went to, there was a TV in there. Even once we got back to school, that’s all everybody watched. We were at school, but we didn’t have school. We just watched it all unfold.”

Jim Signorile, Vice President of St. Michael’s Soldiers and General Sales Manager of Cadillac Saab of Orange Park:

“We were preparing for an off-site tent sale for our cars because I’m in the car sales business. The charity [St. Michael’s Soldiers] wasn’t even around yet. We were getting ready to go on the road for the off-site car sale and then it happened. It was just really hard to believe it was real, even when watching it. There was so much speculation on what was going on, and it was very scary and incredible to see on TV as it unfolded in the days following. We did the tent sale anyway and it was miserable for everyone. We had no idea what was going on in the country, and no idea who did it or why it happened.”

“I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN
But I’m not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

And the greatest is love
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?


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