FLORENCE, AL (WAFF) - We've all thought about the first responders and what they went through during the September 11th attacks, but what about the people who witnessed it all from a safe distance in the city?
Ten years ago, UNA professor, Charlton James, was living his dream in New York City.
Soon after the attacks, he said his direction in life had changed.
James wasn't a firefighter, a police officer, nor did he work in the Towers.
"My life had lead up to New York. Since the time I was in 8th grade drama I decided I was going to move to New York," James said.
Like many, he was an aspiring actor trying to make it in the Big Apple. Never did he imagine he'd witness one of the most tragic events in American history.
"That morning I was asleep in my bed, and I heard my roommate say "Oh my god," and I could tell by the sound of his voice that something bad had happened," said James.
When he went to the living room, he saw the first Tower had been hit.
"About that time we saw the plane coming towards the second Tower, and that's when your heart just sank," he said.
At that moment, James was face to face with fear.
"I thought I had been scared in my life before that happened, but at that moment it was just surreal… I just remember wanting to be home, wanting to be here in Alabama," he said.
The lights that once called James to the city were now sending a different message.
"I didn't grow up in New York. I wasn't a New Yorker, and I didn't feel like I could go through that with them."
A short time later, James moved back to the Shoals.
"You want to forget it, because it is tragedy, true tragedy to see what happened that day," said James.
But the emotion, the questions still remain.
"It's hard to understand why this would happen… An event like that makes you look at life and appreciate it and the people in your life," he said.
Friday night, Charlton James and the rest of the UNA theatre department will host "The Guys." It's a play based on the September 11th attacks.
The show starts at 7. Admission is free, and it's open to the public.
For more information, click on the You Saw It link on WAFF.com.