The vicar of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Priest Alex Karlutsos, was a witness to the tragic events in the USA on 11/9 2001.
The priest recalls that terrible day in an interview with RIA Novosti reporters. He says that the tragedy that has occurred has brought the American people together, regardless of their religion. 2977 people became victims of 19 suicide bombers in the United States in the largest terrorist act in history.
On that fateful day, terrorists hijacked four passenger planes. Two of them, almost simultaneously, at 08:46 and 09:03 am, rammed the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York. A fire broke out in the towers, cutting off the escape route for people on the upper floors. Less than two hours later, both 110-story skyscrapers collapsed.
The third plane was sent to the Pentagon building at 09:37 in the morning. The crew members and passengers of the fourth liner tried to thwart the plans of the terrorists, and the plane crashed at 10:03 in a field in Pennsylvania.
Every resident of the United States remembers perfectly where he was on that September morning. Father Alex Karlutsos was then trying to get to the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in Manhattan. However, he could not, although he was far from the epicenter of the tragic events. He recalls:
“The movement was paralyzed, so I went back to my church and called people to a prayer service. It was like Easter, people were going through Good Friday.”
All believers, the priest says, regardless of religion, experienced extreme suffering at that moment and really needed support from the church. Having gathered, people began to offer prayers in an attempt to overcome the fear and grief that gripped them.
Later, Alex Carlutsos was called in to provide psychological assistance to the victims of the terrorist attack – at the time he was serving as the chaplain of the New York and New Jersey police. He emotionally recalls the events of that day:
“I was driving past the World Trade Center. It was hell, it was terrible, like in a Godzilla movie.”
Small church of St. Nicholas, which was located in the immediate vicinity of the “twin towers” of the WTC, was completely destroyed when one of them collapsed. Only a happy accident saved the priest and another person in the temple – a few minutes before the tragic events, they managed to leave the building:
“I just believe that we were blessed because we did not lose anyone. However, it was very painful for us that we lost our church.”
In the construction of a new church on the site of the destroyed one, which has been going on for 20 years, the clergyman sees a good sign:
“Now we are happy that we were finally able to rebuild our church, which will be open to all people.”
On the anniversary of the tragedy, the facade of the temple was illuminated, and on September 10, the first memorial service in 20 years was held, said Father Alex Karlutsos, vicar of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. After the memorial service and the end of the events on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the large-scale terrorist attacks, the illumination of the temple will go out, and construction work and icon painting will continue. The opening is scheduled for April 2022.
The construction of the temple is still ongoing, so daily services will not be possible in the coming months. The exterior design is expected to be completed by November 2, when the doors of the temple will open to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The interior decoration is scheduled to be completed by April next year, by Holy Week and Easter.