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United States

Memorial Service for September 11 Victims Held at St. Nicholas WTC

September 12, 2023
By Christodoulos Athanasatos & Theodore Kalmoukos

NEW YORK – In an emotionally charged atmosphere, a memorial service was held at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in Lower Manhattan for the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11 on the occasion of the 22nd dark anniversary of the horrific events of 2001.

It was a ceremony of historical proportions, given that it was the first to take place in the new St. Nicholas Church on the day of the sad anniversary, acquiring a special symbolism.

Present, among others, were the president of the organization Friends of St. Nicholas Michael Psaros, Fr. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of America, the St. Nicholas parish’s pastor, Fr. Andreas Vithoulkas, and Fr. John Lardas.

Memorial service for the victims of September 11 at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine. (TNH/CH. Athanasatos)

In the first row were seated the family members of John Katsimatides and Danielle Kousoulis, two of the Greek-American September 11 victims, although the prayers were for all those thousands of people who tragically lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

Metropolitan Apostolos of New Jersey, who presided over the memorial service, described the victims of September 11 as “martyrs of the Church” and “holy people.”

“Thousands of innocent people were killed. It cannot be forgotten,” the Metropolitan said, continuing, “you can’t forget these people. From my point of view, these people, who died on 11 September 2001, are saints. We honor the memory of these holy people. I remember being in Greece and seeing these pictures on TV, we couldn’t believe it… I was in Greece, and I was supposed to travel to America in October. It was something we couldn’t believe. We thought it was a movie. My mother then said to me, ‘where are you going to America now, can’t you see what’s happening?’ But I couldn’t not come. For me, these people are witnesses of the Church.”

The Kasoulis and Catsimatidis families at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine. (TNH/CH. Athanasatos)

Psaros told The National Herald it was a “very historic day. He continued: “That’s why we built the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine. We are the only church in the United States built on public property, and we are the only religious organization of any kind at Ground Zero. The reason we are the only National Shrine in New York is that we are a common grave for the 3,000 people who were murdered 22 years ago. This building, this national shrine, is a true expression of the greatness of the Resurrection and the triumph of life over death, of light over darkness, and of good over evil… Every Greek and Greek Orthodox in the Diaspora should be extremely proud that while 22 years ago the World Trade Center was destroyed by an act of religious fanaticism and hatred, we Greeks and we Orthodox turned the other cheek and built this place of worship through our faith and love.”

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center Parish Council President Demetri Papacostas and Friends of St. Nicholas Chairman Michael Psaros. (TNH/CH. Athanasatos)

Danielle Kousoulis’ sister Eleni expressed her deep emotion at the fact that her sister’s memory, like that of the other victims, remains alive. “It’s my first time coming to this church since it was completed. The service was very beautiful, and it is very important that we have people who remember Danielle and the other victims, whether they are Greek Orthodox or not. It is important to have a service and remember them all.” Her father, George Kousoulis, added, “I enjoyed doing the memorial. They honored my daughter’s name, who unjustly lost her life on September 11, 2001.”

Similarly, John Katsimatidis’ mother, Kalliopi, stated, “although the pain remains, from a spiritual perspective, it is very important for us… The Trisagion service for the victims of September 11 gives us strength and hope, and we are very grateful to Archbishop America Elpidophoros for sending Metropolitan Apostolos for this. We are thankful.”

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