Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering 9/11 - The Day That Changed the World...Lest we Forget!

New York's landmark World Trade Centre ... 
Before 11 September 2001,
the day that changed the world...

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to see the Twin Towers couldn't fail to be impressed by the sheer technical achievement involved.  I took this photo during one of the popular tourist Circle Cruises,  never dreaming that just a few years later I would be watching the devastation of their destruction from our living room in Athens...

For all of us who watched  the dreadful events that unfolded before our eyes in a live, full colour, stream of horror on that day in 2001, it soon struck home that the reality we were watching was so much more horrific and unthinkable than anything Hollywood would ever have been able to come up with. 

As the first plane flew into the tower I don't think any of us could believe what we were the second one did the same, we knew something terrible was going on... as the day and the day's events unfolded, as more news came to light about the other planes and the crashes, the whole world realised that the unthinkable was happening, the USA was the victim of a carefully planned and meticulously and callously executed terrorist attack... a terrorist attack that would leave its mark for years to come...

The self-sacrifice and heroism of New York Fire Department and Police personnel who rushed to rescue the stranded despite the dangers, the chaos and the appalling conditions which prevailed.

Greek American FDNY firefighter Peter Critsimilios, honoured by the Thessaloniki Fire Department for his heroism, is one of the Greek American firemen who was on the front line during those days. At the honouring ceremony he shared a little of the horror of those days with us...
'The morning of 9/11 the United States, and N.Y.C., the NYPD, the PAPD and the FDNY got knocked to our collective knees. 

That afternoon, we stood back up again.

My fire unites responded to the W.T.C. early the next morning.; We were met with a scene of complete devastation. Fires continued to burn in, around, and under the debris pile. We put on our helmets and went to work. While at the site the FDNY changed, adapted, and evolved. We worked till exhausted and then simply rolled up our coats laid our heads down on them and went to sleep.We woke up again and went back to work. This proved to be too physically and mentally draining, so our tours of duty were changed to 24 hours on and 24 hours off. This schedule was modified even further to allow quicker rotation and quicker rest periods. 

This was not an environment to work tired and dulled. If you stood in one place too long the bottom of your boots melted.Large pieces of steel, some weighing 10-20 tons were at every conceivable angle and could crush you at any moment.The air was filled with acrid smoke.The footing was dangerous. There were voids 30-40 feet deep. In some places, the rubble pile was 7-8 stories high and extremely unstable.This was a place that could still hurt you, could still kill you. 

When our knees became burnt, bruised, and cut, we procured kneepads so that we could work more efficiently.If a tool did not work, we modified it; we adapted it to the task at hand.
We were fluid, we thought of our feet.We were getting the job done....'
Read  all of Peter's speech

America's Greek Community counted 39 of its own among the  2983 people who lost their lives so tragically on that day in September in 2001 - a day which started out like so many others but soon turned into one of the most devastating in America's recent history - a  day which would change the world forever, but especially for those who lost their loved ones... 

Joanne Marie Ahladiotis 27
Ernest Alifakos 43
Arlene T. Babakitis 47
Katherine Bantis 48
Peter Brennan 30
Thomas A. Damaskinos 33
Anthony Demas 61
Constantine (Gus) Economos 41
Michael J. Elferis 27
Ana Fosteris 58
Jimmy Grekiotis
Kenneth G. Grouzalis 56
Steven M. Hagis 31
Vasilios G. Haramis 56
Nicholas John 42
John Katsimatides 31
Danielle Kousoulis 29
Thomas Kuveikis 48
James Maounis 42
Philip William Mastrandrea, Jr 42
George Merkouris 35
Stilianos Mousouroulis—-
Peter C. Moutos 44
Nikos Papadopoulos/Papas 29
James N. Pappageorge 29
George Paris 33
Theodoros Pigis 60
Daphne Pouletsos 47
Richard N. Poulos 55
Stephen E. Poulos 45
Anthony Savas 72
Muriel Fay Siskopoulos 60
Timothy Patrick Soulas 35
Andrew Stergiopoulos 23
Michael C. Tarrou 38
Michael Theodoridis 32
William P. Tselepis 33
Jennifer Tzemis 26
Prokopios Paul Zois 46

(source: Maria Karamitsios for USA Greek Reporter) 

Greek American actress Anthoula Katsimatides is the sister of one of those 39 young Greek Americans, John Katsimatides. Anthoula is on the board of directors of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum , and was the liaison to the family members of those who were murdered in the September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 terrorist attacks. She also  served as Governor Pataki's liaison to the September 11th families, and last Friday, September 9, 2011, was chosen to ring the bell at the NYSE, in memory of those who fell so needlessly...

Talking to the New York Daily News about the annual memorial service, Anthoula had this to say...

'These past 10 years, while there has been no memorial yet to visit on the anniversaries, I have found great comfort through the simple, reverent reading of the names on the site of the attacks. I am surrounded by people who are connected to these names, and, like me, they know that each name represents a life of someone who was loved and who was loved by us as family members. I am also reassured to know that my brother and the nearly 3,000 others are being remembered as people - not as numbers, facts or statistics...' Read more:

You can also listen to Anthoula tell John's story tonight on the Discovery and Science series Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero in episodes 5 & 6 from 9-11pm, on the Science channel today Sunday 11 September, 2011 from 5-11pm.

The total destruction of St Nicholas, the little Greek Orthodox church at the bottom of the twin Towers, and the only place of worship in the area, was a great loss for the Greek Community. The ongoing battle with the Port Authority of New York to ensure that this historic little church can be rebuilt on Ground Zero, its original site, continues, after the discussions came to an abrupt close in 2009, despite the fact that all seemed to be going well, and it seems that the case will be decided on in the courts.

Last year we wrote that it is up to all of us in the Global Greek World, and especially the Greek American Community to ALL ACT NOW to ensure the continuing presence of St Nicholas, the little Greek Orthodox Church that was sacrificed on that black day, 10 years ago, when terrorism came to the USA and changed the course of history forever! 

To see how you can help rebuild, go to the St Nicholas website

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