How do we begin this, by saying happy Patriots’ Day, or in remembrance of 9-11, or perhaps a solemn reminder to let everyone know I’ll never forget what happened on that fateful day. I know exactly what I was doing… I remember where I was… and who I was with the day terrorists decided to declare war on America. Some things are just frozen in time; our bodies become so traumatized to what happens that we can’t forget.
I learned in my psychology studies this is a brain’s natural reaction to remember things that hurt us badly, it’s a form of protection, keeping us from being traumatized again and again. For example, we remember that the stove is hot so we won’t touch it a second time. No matter how much we medicate and/or counsel the mind cannot forget — nor should it. It is God’s way of intelligent design of our own psychological makeup.
My younger brother was already in the United States Army, he enlisted in 1992. He was a nine-year peacetime veteran when he graduated from the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fayetteville, North Carolina, in March 2001. Through this training he had become one of the elite warriors for United States Army “the Green Beret” no one could’ve imagined how much our family life would be impacted seven months later when the attacks of September 11 happened. You see Green Berets are assigned one of seven geographical regions around the world; my brother was in 3rd group, North Africa and the Middle East. He was going to be involved in the war whether we liked it or not, we couldn’t deny this fact, because they brought the war to us, or perhaps they started it, we were going to finish it.
I was working as a finish carpenter in Princeton, W.Va., putting the kitchen cabinets in a newly constructed home. There was no cable, no television sets, in fact this was the very first home being built in this neighborhood. Myself, and one other employee, did have a radio. This is the first time I remember emergency broadcast system coming on the radio and announcing, and it wasn’t a test. I was forced to endure this attack by audio only. The horrific images of the planes crashing into the twin towers and of them falling, the Pentagon on fire, and the plane crash at Shanksville, Pa., are just words at this point. Cell service was available but was primitive 15 years ago.
I was the one that informed my mother and my wife of what I’d heard on the radio, and for them to draw their attention to the news reports on television. My wife later explained to me that she watched unedited news broadcasts of people jumping from the twin towers that were burning. People were openly praying on both the radio and on the construction site. We were listening to the Johnboy & Billy Big Show, where Billy openly prayed in Jesus name on the air. In two hours everything had changed in America. It was different then; people rallied together, flew their flags, and flocked to neighborhood churches that they had long abandoned or deliberately omitted from their beliefs. It was an influx of new recruits at the recruiting office; we wanted to give back, what we had been dealt.
My brother went to war, nine tours of duty, two in Iraq, and seven in Afghanistan. He made it through alive, but not without earning three purple hearts, two with oak-leaf clusters. He also earned seven bronze stars, three have oak-leaf clusters. You see when us “Farmers” do something, we go all the way and do it the best we can. Unless you have been there you can’t imagine what it’s like praying for someone like my brother and the other Special Forces. The stress of this much combat was paid by my entire family, especially my mother.
We were doing exactly what the terrorists wanted us to do, bringing the fight to them on their own homeland, good against evil, through God’s grace and mercy good came out on top — this time — the evil still exists and always will. I went all the way for God. I should’ve drowned in the flood that destroyed my parents’ home; God saw me through the flood and allowed me to live so I could pray and see my brother through his war. He’s retired from the Army now and myself, 11 years in the ministry. We should never forget what many have done to ensure our freedom to make sure another attack like 9/11 doesn’t happen again.
You see psychologically my brain can’t forget things I’ve learned to live with, and through, but it’s God’s way of designing the mind. The flags that were flown 15 years ago are faded and gone, the patriotism and abounding love for the Lord seemed to fade away too, people have forgotten, but not all. God saw my family through this horrific event and also yours. I got to experience our country coming together in a way that I’ve never seen before. For a brief moment we were joined together under one banner of love and unity, Christian Americans, in God we trust, it is to God I give all the glory and majesty justice and praise, bless his son Jesus’ name.
To the first responders, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, volunteers, prayer warriors (preachers), Americans, Christians from around the world, I honor you second. May God bless you and comfort you in this time of “never forgetting.” Amen.
Rev. Kevin L. Farmer is pastor Claypool United Methodist Church and a member of the Logan Ministerial Association.