Today, I watched proudly as a woman I have come to call my sister, stood proudly only steps away from the location her beloved brother Johnny, was brutally murdered by terrorists on September 11th 2001. She stood there with such dignity and pride, serving as the Master of Ceremonies at the ground blessing and cornerstone laying for the new St. Nicholas National Shrine, the new church that will replace the only house of worship destroyed during the 9/11 attacks.
There was Anthoula Katsimatides— standing only feet away from a memorial that has her brother’s name etched on it, on a podium, with her mother in the audience— as well as other family members who lost loved ones on that fateful day.
There she was, standing next to the Archbishop, a half dozen Metropolitans of the Greek Orthodox Church from throughout the nation, the police commissioner, United States Senators, members of Congress, so many dignitaries and special guests.
There she was, a few hundred yards away from the September 11th National Memorial— an institution she helped build with her dedication and hard work, as she continues to serve on the board of directors alongside such luminaries as Robert DeNiro, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and every living President of the United States of America.
I am still asking myself how she had the courage to do what she did, with so many visible reminders and invisible memories.
Yet there she was, standing with dignity and courage— the true expression of resilience, an example for so many who suffer their own torment, an example that yes— things do get better and that cliche we hear so many times, if we work at it, can really be true– out of tragedy comes goodness.
I asked Anthoula once, how she did it— not only dealing with the loss of her brother on 9/11— but a double tragedy of losing her other brother a few years earlier to mental illness and eventual suicide.
Her response was simple but has stayed with me since she first told it to me:
“Greg,” she said— “Life is for the living. And we must live.”
And live, she did today, standing on that podium with dignity, reminding everyone that life is indeed, for the living.