It has been 22 years – unbelievable, isn’t it? – since that perfect sunny morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when terrorists under the leadership of Osama bin Laden destroyed the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center, the symbols of the American Empire, and covered the skies of Manhattan, America, and indeed the entire world, with dark clouds.
I remember it as if it were yesterday, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. A few minutes after the attack – at 8:46AM – I received a phone call in my office in Queens, and a frantic, panicked voice informed me of what had happened.
I quickly rushed to the window of my office. A massive fire and a large cloud of smoke billowed from the North Tower. It seemed so improbable at the time that my mind didn’t even consider a terrorist attack. I thought maybe a pilot, despite the clear sky, had tragically crashed into the tower.
However, sixteen minutes later, at 9:03AM, a second plane plunged into the South Tower, and it was clear then that it was a terrorist attack. 110 floors collapsed like a house of cards in just an hour-and-a-half. Along with them, the entire surrounding area was leveled.
St. Nicholas, the humble but historic Greek Orthodox church located directly beneath the Towers, where our sailors who reached the port of New York would light a candle and thank the Saint for allowing them to cross the treacherous Atlantic Ocean, was destroyed. It disappeared from the face of the Earth.
America, however, and especially New Yorkers – optimistic, determined, and strong people – would not allow Osama bin Laden the satisfaction of thinking he had won. They rebuilt the area and made it even better than before.
Years later, thanks to the leadership and inspired vision of people like Michael Psaros, another St. Nicholas was built in a nearby location – a magnificent church, the only one in the area, a symbol of our Orthodox faith, and a global Christian reference point in the most historic area of New York.
It was said back then that this tragic event would affect America and the entire world. It did much more than that. This attack not only influenced but profoundly shook the world. It opened Pandora’s box. It changed the way we see the world and the future of humanity. It was akin to the major historical events of the 20th century, such as Pearl Harbor, the two world wars, the development of nuclear weapons, major revolutions like the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Maoists in China, as well as the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
For the first time, it introduced the concept of attacks by radical groups against nations and empires. It created a sense of instability and insecurity on the planet.
It made us ponder, what would happen if a group of terrorists acquired a nuclear weapon?
9/11. A day of destruction. 2,997 people were killed, including about 50 Greek-Americans. May their memory be eternal!