The domed sanctuary rising in Lower Manhattan, where workers are busy installing translucent Greek marble in time for a ceremonial lighting on Sept. 10, bears little resemblance to the modest parish church that John Katsimatides had discovered years ago.
He often visited the old St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church to say a prayer and light a candle as he went to or from work nearby on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower. The church stood as a quiet oasis amid the soaring financial district.
John Katsimatides “was thrilled that there was a Greek church right across the street from where he worked,” recalled his sister, Anthoula Katsimatides. “St. Nicholas was very special to him.”
In the immediate aftermath the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, John's relatives held on to hope that he might have survived. They put up missing-person posters in Lower Manhattan and searched the streets and hospitals for him. But as the days stretched into weeks, “our priest insisted that we, for the sake of his soul, read the prayer rites” marking his death, Anthoula said. John, 31, a corporate bonds broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, was among the nearly 3,000 people killed on 9/11.
The old St. Nicholas church was also destroyed that day. While no one was killed in the building, it was crushed beneath the falling south tower — the only house of worship destroyed in the attacks.
“When we discovered ... that St. Nicholas was also lost, we thought that there was some kind of a message there, that the victims did not die alone,” Anthoula Katsimatides said. “I remember my mom saying that ... John and the other victims were being cradled by St. Nicholas.”