9/11’s Forgotten Victim

To the Editor:

As a person of faith, Dr. Land’s call to prayer in his September 9 editorial, “How Should Americans Respond to the 10th Anniversary of 9/11,” really resonated with me. And though it’s a tall order, I agree that we must pray for the enlightenment of our enemies.

Christians in particular are called to do this, But all Americans of faith should be grateful that our country hasn’t been attacked in the last ten years, and express our gratitude to the Creator for giving us the strength and wisdom we need to protect ourselves. We should consider ourselves blessed that, when subsequent attempts to attack us are thwarted, it is also because God chooses to intervene in seemingly fortuitous ways.

I also whole-heartedly agree that religious leaders should not have been excluded from official ceremonies in New York commemorating the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Moreover, total exclusion is not the answer, and is inconsistent with the concept of religious and civil liberties in America.

If any religious group deserved to be present, it was the Greek Orthodox Church. Greek Orthodox Christians lost a house of worship that day. St. Nicholas Church, which stood directly beneath the Twin Towers, was utterly destroyed when the collapsing South Tower fell, so the participation of Greek Orthodox clergy during the official Ground Zero program would have been perfectly reasonable and acceptable. But exclusion prevailed.

Anglican clergy also deserved to participate, but while Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel survived the devastating terrorist attacks, St. Nicholas Church was completely crushed. That’s why it would have been most appropriate to have a groundbreaking ceremony for St. Nicholas Church on the tenth anniversary. The church was part-and-parcel of what was destroyed that day. It should be part-and-parcel of what gets rebuilt.

But the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which has eminent domain over Ground Zero, has prevented reconstruction of this church. And by refusing to honor its agreement with the church, the agency has also violated Greek Orthodox constitutional rights in this country, which is why the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese filed a federal lawsuit against the Port Authority back in February. The case is currently in pre-trail discovery.

Unfortunately, the secularized mainstream media have stopped talking about the ongoing plight of St. Nicholas Church, so the American public has largely forgotten about this issue. But people of sound mind and goodwill would gladly defend this just and noble cause. They just need to be reminded.

That said, Dr. Land’s point that we should pray for God to liberate our enemies “from the blindness and bitterness of their twisted understanding of religion” – an understanding he correctly characterizes as a “fascist ideology” – is right on the mark. But it doesn’t apply solely to the enemy without. It also applies to the enemy within.

The Port Authority’s executive director is an avowed atheist. His anti-religionist attitude pervades the agency’s hostility toward St. Nicholas Church. In this instance, people of faith are being unjustly mistreated by people who claim to have none. And that needs to be exposed in order for it to stop.

If we allow the Port Authority to eliminate a Christian church from the Ground Zero blueprint, then we’re allowing the Authority to finish the religious extremists’ job, and thereby perpetuate the tragedy of 9/11. For the nation’s soul to fully heal, St. Nicholas Church – 9/11’s forgotten victim and Ground Zero’s original symbol of religious tolerance and peace – must also rise from the ashes of that terrible day. Thank you.


Evan C. Lambrou
Ithaca, New York

Evan Lambrou is former editor of the National Herald, the country's oldest and largest Greek American newspaper. He is also a graduate of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Boston.