Much like people all over the country or around the world would remember where they were and what they were doing when they learned President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in November 1963, in the days, weeks, months, and now in the 13 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the memories of what transpired are for many just as fresh and unreal as they were when events were first unfolding on TV screens that day.
Like others who used their creative outlet to work through anger, grief, disbelief or sadness, Alan Jackson struggled with his feelings about writing something to express how he and others felt in the wake of the attacks. Awakened a few weeks later on a Sunday at 4 a.m., Jackson sang a few lines into a tape recorder. He finished writing the song later that day and played it for executives at his then-record label, RCA, a few days later. “Nobody spoke for a full minute,” recalled Joe Galante, RCA’s label group chairman at the time.
On November 7th, just eight weeks after the attacks, Jackson debuted the song live during the CMA Awards telecast. The following morning, country radio had already started playing the audio from that performance and pop stations, including one in New York, began to play it as well. Six weeks later the song was Number One. It would go on to win ACM and CMA Song of the Year honors and also earned the singer his first Grammy.
On November 16, 2001, the lyrics were officially entered into the Congressional Record, with a statement from Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.), which concluded: “Thank you Alan, for helping us to remember those we lost and for helping to keep their memory alive.”