Posted on Friday, Sep 10, 2021 by Marya Morgan
(Air1 Closer Look) – Thousands of people lost their lives on September 11th 2001 when terrorists hurled commercial airplanes as weapons in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. In the months that followed, untold millions more nationwide were altered permanently as America adjusted to its newfound vulnerability. For those who witnessed the aftermath up close, the effects of 9-11 were infinitely more personal than intrusive changes to airport security. Gruesome sights on-site permanently redirected their personal health and professional ministries.
Kevin Ellers, D. Min, was in Kansas City when he was called to the Trade Towers collapse in New York City with The Salvation Army. For two weeks he cried and prayed with people who lost husbands or wives, sons and daughters at Ground Zero. He stood in sacred silence alongside firefighters and chaplains when human remains were found in the rubble of what recovery workers called ‘The Pile.’ The events of 9-11 revealed the awful truth that most first responders are not properly trained to process their own very normal human emotions in the face of tragedy. “I made it about seven days into the deployment, and we were working like 14 hour days, we were just exhausted: I remember I just hit the wall. I completely lost it.” The realization caused Ellers to abandon his PhD project in progress for a new one – in the months and years after 9-11 he studied trauma care and critical incident debriefing, eventually designing curriculum with titles like Spiritual First Aid, now used to train first responders internationally. Ellers currently serves as the Territorial Disaster Services Coordinator and Chaplaincy Coordinator for The Salvation Army Central Territory. He has also become a life coach.
Hear our Closer Look conversation with Dr. Ellers.
Rev. Dr. Tim Carentz was a young Air Force medic in D.C. when he got the call to the Pentagon on 9-11. The horrible sights and smells at the crash site scarred his memory. He suffered his first panic attack the very next year, and as his mental health declined, he was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After years of struggling with nightmares, fits of rage and suicidal thoughts, he finally reached out to a chaplain for help. Leaning on faith in Jesus and the support of his military community, Carentz retired from the USAF as a Chief Master Sergeant and now operates a resource center Kaiserslautern Military Resiliency Center for families stationed in Germany where he currently resides. He is also the NATO Director of The Warrior's Journey a collection of online resources. “I’m not sure how much the word ‘resiliency’ was utilized back when I came forward, but it really did become a buzzword launching me forward for the rest of the next chapter in my life.” But you don’t bounce back by pulling up your own bootstraps, he says. You need a support system. “I took advantage of going to see the chaplain weekly, psychology, psychiatry and there was pharmacological intervention – and I spent a lot of time at the foot of the Cross. I really began to deepen in a relationship with God and with many of the others who came alongside to walk with me in that particular season.”
Hear our Closer Look conversation with Chief Carentz.