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Message of Honorary SAE President, Andrew A. Athens on September 11th
Chicago09.09.2011

Hallowed Be Thy Names: A Ten-Year Memorial of 9/11

Andrew A. Athens

National Chairman, UHAC
President and Founder, hellenicare

September 11, 2001, began as any other day, but now it is a day that will be long remembered and commemorated in America history.  No one will ever forget how al – Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger jets and set into motion a day of terror, fear and death for nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania.

The courage of those who died and those who immediately responded to the tragedies, firefighters, police and every day citizens, is an indelible memory. The nation was in shock and disbelief as the news media played over and over again the footage of planes crashing into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The brave passengers on that fateful flight thwarted an attack headed for either the White House or the Capital building.  It was a day of heroism for those who died, those who lived through the attacks and those who responded on the spot.

For the families who lost loved ones, employers who lost valued employees, friends who lost friends, their hearts will never be fully mended.  We as a nation remember their sacrifice in the name of freedom.  Al Qaeda sought to destroy America, but they could not and cannot. The ties that bind us as Americans cannot be broken.  The memory of these hallowed heroes will be ever eternal.

Ten years have passed quickly, the healing begun and the rebuilding process is underway.  Recently, the Discovery Channel aired a special program entitled Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero.

The documentary highlighted New York’s master plan for rebuilding the area where the two tall towers of the World Trade Center once stood. It also portrayed the hopes and aspirations of people who live in the area.  The program documented how the neighborhood has rejuvenated itself, how people are once again feeling a sense of calm and collectiveness.  A tree still standing after the attack symbolizes the hope that residents expressed for the rebounding neighborhood.  The poignant message of resiliency, resonated throughout the program.

Yet, there is one aspect of the rebuilding process that the documentary might have overlooked: the rebuilding of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the spiritual haven that stood in the shadows of the Twin Towers.

It is amazing to me how difficult it has been for the parish of St. Nicholas to receive the approval to rebuild the church.  The only house of worship to be destroyed during the September 11th attacks. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has stymied the church’s efforts at every juncture.  The only recourse the Archdiocese could pursue, after every attempt at negotiation failed, was to file a law suit against the Port Authority. 

To add insult to injury, no clergy of any denomination have been invited to the commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero.   When our nation was attacked, it was prayer that sustained us in coping with the horror.  It was prayer that offered solace and comfort.  Have we now ten years later forgotten our prayers?

Prayer and our belief of being a God – fearing nation have been relegated to the sidelines and perhaps are becoming non – existent.  It is not a question of one religion over another. It is a question of how faith and hope can overcome the most trying of times.  This is why it is important that St. Nicholas be rebuilt and why the power of prayer should be part of the 9/11 commemorative program.

This event, and every commemorative event thereafter, should be about the people who died, who survived and who responded.  Yet, it is also about how Americans came together, gained strength from one another and found comfort in praying with their neighbor.  The time to rebuild is at hand and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church must be part of the rebuilding process.

As a man who believes in faith, the power of prayer and the power of the people, I urge every church community in the United States to convey to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that we will not wait any longer to rebuild the church that stood in the midst of Manhattan as a beacon of light.  This symbol of love, faith, hope and charity in a country that was built upon all of these virtues, must prevail.

 
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