1:26 PM PDT, September 9, 2021
The one church destroyed on 9/11 is finally reopening as a national shrine.
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church served the faithful in lower Manhattan for almost 90 years. It was destroyed by falling debris on that terrible day.
For many, including Anthoula Katsimatides, whose brother died on 9/11, St. Nick’s has special meaning.
“I grew up knowing that this church was here and would visit,” she notes. “But then I got to know it more because my brother John worked at the World Trade Center, and he would come to St. Nicholas when it was open, you know, either before work or after work and light a candle.”
The loss of the church, Anthoula explains, came to mean something greater.
“When we discovered about the fact that St. Nicholas was also lost, you know, we thought that there was some sort of a message there.
“You know that the victims did not die alone. I remember my mom saying that, because she was such a devout Christian, that John and the other victims were being cradled by St. Nicholas.”
The new church, now a national shrine, overlooks the World Trade Center memorial plaza.
“We are part of America,” Rev. Alex Karloutsos from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America explains. “We are New York strong.
“We are going to rebuild, and we wanted to rebuild a St Nicholas Shrine that would be a shrine for the entire country and for the world to see that it is a light on a hill.”
“September 10th, when we light the church from within, represents the triumph of light over darkness,” Michael Psaros, from the Friends of St. Nicholas nonprofit, adds.
And John’s sister says she wants the St. Nicholas Shrine to be a place where she can not only honor her brother but other families can also reckon with their losses.
“Being able to come and worship at the site of my brother’s death in a beautiful chapel that not only honors John, but all the victims that died that day, and is a symbol of this rebirth, is unbelievably important to me now.”