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New York, September 11th 2001, local time 8:45. The greatest terrorist attack takes place, as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York collapse. Everyone can sense that the world is changing, and that it will no longer be as before. A tragic aftermath; the loss of 2982 people, among which 35 of Greek origin.
Today, 10 years later, the grim memories remain intense, as the pain experience by the families of those unjustly lost, who are nonetheless hoping for a better tomorrow for the entire world.
On the occasion of the 9/11 anniversary, a series of events and the inauguration ceremony of the September 11th National Memorial and Museum, will be held this Sunday at “Ground Zero”.
Those who survived that day, even though the nightmare is carved in their memories, are feeling blessed to be alive. One of them is Aris Papathanasiou, an electronic engineer from Florina, who worked at the second floor of the World Trade Center.
He was saved because he did not hear the announcements, coming from the loudspeakers, advising staff to refrain from abandoning the building. At the time of the first strike, Mr. Papathanasiou was on the elevator heading to the 69th floor, where his office was located. While he was in the building, nobody knew what exactly was going on.
“I feel very lucky that I survived, but not happy. I have turned the TV off, because I cannot stand to experience the terrifying images, over and over”, stated Mr. Papathanasiou to MPA on September 12th 2011. “We witnessed the fire on the building next to us, and we were told that a plane crashed, and that there was no danger for the second tower and no need to be concerned, in order to leave. The only thing I thought of was to take the stairs down, as many others did, even though I must say that we felt safe at that time. We were calm and were discussing how the accident could have happened. I had reached the 35th floor when the building was shaken from the crash of the second plane. I felt that the building would collapse. Panic prevailed, screaming, crying… Eventually we managed to get out”.
Today, at the age of 49, Aris Papathanasiou, who still works for Morgan Stanley, goes on with his life smoothly, having overcome the trauma of the shock he experienced at the time. However, such days overwhelm him with mixed feelings, as the plethora of commemorative events and TV broadcasts, intensify and bring the memories back. “I cannot forget two good colleagues we lost that time…”, states Mr. Papathanasiou, who will be visiting the 9/11 National Memorial and Museum in October.
His greatest joy, are his two daughters, Eleni and Argyro, 12 and 13 years old respectively. They were in Greece on holidays with their mom on that day.
Today, they know everything about the 9/11 tragedy, the day their father was saved by a miracle. The essays they wrote on their first day of school are especially moving.
“When I was just 16 months old, some horrible people tried to change my life. My family and I are lucky. If only it were so for everyone… Unfortunately it isn’t, and the tragedy of that day still hurts so many people. Even if I don’t remember what happened on that specific date, I have grown to remember and never forget”, writes young Eleni.
Argyro is also feeling blessed, but she also thinks it is unfair that so many innocent souls were perished; “I think – she wrote – that terrorists are cowards, because they don’t face their enemies, they prey on the innocent, just like my father, who went to work that morning”.
Living with the memory of those lost…
Anthoula Katsimatidis lost her brother Yannis (31) on that day, who was working for a brokerage firm, on the 104th floor, at the first World Trade Center tower.
She was informed on the incident from Greece, through a relatives’ phone-call who woke her up to find out what was going on. Her immediate thought was to communicate with the New York Senator’s office at the time, George Patakis, where she was working. Thinking of her brother, she would eliminate the thought that something bad may have happened.
“We did not believe that our Yannis wouldn’t live. In the evening we gathered at our mother’s home – dad was in Nisyros – and we hoped that he could only return at some point”, Anthoula recalls, as her voice trembles. “The hopes perished a month later, when the family eventually came to terms with reality and performed his memorial service.
Her father passed away a year ago, bearing that pain. Her mother lives on, having the pain of Yannis and the family’s younger brother, Michalis’ loss, who passed away in 1999. “Ten years later, I personally feel the same as then. The pain doesn’t go, it is unbearable, it is a part of our daily lives, but we endure it”, states Anthoula.
An actress by profession, Anthoula does her best to preserve the memory of September 11th 2001, hoping for a better tomorrow.
It was her personal choice to become a member of the Administrative Board of the National Memorial and Museum of September 11th, which is going to be inaugurated this Sunday at “Ground Zero”. She will be there, with all the formal guests.
“We did not build a memorial to remember the people we lost, but also to convey a message that all together, we will try so that the forthcoming generations will not have to experience something like this ever again. The Memorial at “Ground Zero” is full of life; the trees, the grass, the waterfalls, all symbolize life…”, states Anthoula to ANA – MPA.
On that day she will be meeting President Obama again, whom she met last May. The Greek American actress was among the 9/11 victims’ relatives to receive an invitation from the U.S. President to attend a “Ground Zero” meeting in Manhattan.
Anthoula Katsimatidis is one of the people who believe that in life, one should support those in need. “Especially when you have experienced what we’ve been through, if you don’t do something positive to help the rest of the world, you are lost”, she states.
And towards that purpose, Anthoula and her brother Giorgos, established the non-profit organization JaM Foundation for Life, in memory of Yannis and Michalis, to help children and adults suffering from cancer, Greek community members, who are in need of support, etc.
Captions: Yannis Katsimatidis, Aris Papathanasiou, Anthoula Katsimatidis and Obama
Source: ANA – MPA