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Greek Orthodox Victims of 9/11 Remembered at St. Nicholas

NEW YORK – By Sophia A. Niarchos

“For they gave their lives for the common weal, and in so doing won for themselves the praise which grows not old and the most distinguished of all sepulchers – not that in which they lie buried, but that in which their glory survives in everlasting remembrance.” The orator Pericles didn’t know that more than 3,000 people would die on September 11 in the year 2001 in America; but his words, inscribed on a plaque at the entrance of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, are a propos for the remembrance of those who perished in the terrorist attacks that destroyed two towering buildings and all but a few artifacts in the original church.

On Monday, September 11, in the newly-constructed church, a few dozen people, including the families of John Katsimatidis and Danielle Kousoulis and clergy (Archdiocese Chancellor Fr. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos; Rev. Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Throne Fr. Andreas Vithoulkas; Fr. John Lardas of Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church in Port Washington, NY; Fr. Alexander Gratsias; and Fr. Nektarios Cottros of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Piscataway, NJ) gathered to remember the 23 Greek Orthodox people who perished that day through the memorial service of the Orthodox Church. They were led in prayer by the new Μetropolitan of the New Jersey Μetropolis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Apostolos, just a few days before his enthronement.

Within the traditional service was a special prayer for the deceased, offered by His Eminence which includes reference to God’s decree after the Fall of Adam and Eve that “the composition and mixture, this unbreakable bond that [God] made should be severed and dissolved…. And thus, until the general resurrection, the soul goes to where it received its existence, and the body disintegrates into the elements from which it was composed” and a prayer that He “not ignore the work of [His] hands and allow it to be swallowed up by perdition, but let the body decompose, and let the soul be assigned a place in the choir of the righteous” even if “Your servants came under the curse of father or mother, or cursed themselves, or if they provoked any of the clergy and received a penance from which they were not released, or if they incurred a severe excommunication of a hierarch and then through indifference or negligence failed to obtain forgiveness, we pray You forgive them now.” 

Indeed, His Eminence Apostolos, expressed his firm belief that the “people who have fallen asleep” are “holy people” because, he said, he is confident that as they, innocent people, saw the end of their lives approaching, “every one [of them] raised their heart, saying “God, save me. God, give me Your grace; I know I’m ended from this life, and You are the only One who is able to save me.”

He spoke of his own remembrance of the tragic event and how it affected him even though he had lost no family members, and he emphasized that “no one has the right to kill anyone.”