The attacks on America brought out the best in country music
The biggest story in country music in 2001 was the biggest story everywhere. On Sept. 11, terrorist hijackers flew two airliners into the World Trade Center, a third one into the Pentagon and another into the Pennsylvania countryside - killing thousands and changing the way Americans think of their country, their security and life itself.
Country responded to the catastrophe loudly, proudly and immediately, with donations, benefit concerts and music that resounded with poignancy and patriotism.
Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks were among those helping raise $150 million for the Red Cross during the America: A Tribute To Heroes telethon. And on Oct. 21, many more of country's finest pitched in for the Country Freedom Concert, a three-hour musical spectacular that brought in millions for the Salvation Army Disaster Relief Fund. It would be hard to name a star who didn't donate his or her own concert or record-sales proceeds to the effort in the weeks following that horrible day.
But perhaps the greatest contribution those performers could make was simply doing what they do best: making music that touched the heart and inspired the spirit. After the attacks, the nation increasingly turned to country - the music of the people - to express how the people felt.
Diamond Rio's "One More Day" helped us say goodbye to those we'd lost, while Aaron Tippin's "Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly" gave voice to our undiminished pride, and Lee Greenwood's "God Blue The USA" practically became an unofficial national anthem. Alan Jackson eloquently summed up what the country had been through during the previous two months - the pain, the loss, but also the unity and determination - with his poignant "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)," which he premiered on November's CMA Awards telecast.
The experience of Sept. 11 reminded listeners of country music's power to unite, to uplift, to heal and to summon beauty from the ashes of tragedy. From New York to L.A., from president to factory worker and concert stage to living room, we all heard freedom ring.