ASTORIA – Every year on September 11 communities across the country gather to remember those who perished on that terrible day in 2001. In New York City, there are also moving remembrances of those among them who were first responders.
One of the more touching commemorations is organized by St. Michael’s Cemetery in Astoria and features the annual “Remember Me Run at St. Michaels,” and a service at the chapel, outside of which is an imposing marble monument inscribed with the names of the first responders.
This year two new groups participated Sharing and Caring, and Visions, which will be the beneficiaries of the run’s fundraising.
Ed Horn, the Director of St. Michael’s, paid tribute to Greek-Americans who lost their lives on 9/11 when he spoke to TNH. He also said the two new participating groups were invited “in order to celebrate all survivors” and people who overcome great ordeals, including the families of the first responders who died.
Anna Krill, Sharing and Caring’s president, spoke about how the organization evolved from its founding in 1994 “to serve the emerging needs of cancer survivors, women and men of all ages throughout the city.”
The representative from Visions, which literally helps to restore people’s vision, told the gathering the organization “is proud to support this event…its very important to remember.”
Tony Barsanian, the publisher of the Queens Gazette, once again served as the Emcee. He thanked all involved and asked for a “huge round of applause for St. Michael’s.” He then called upon the clergy, Fr. Anastasios Pourakis of St. Demetrios of Astoria, Rabbi Jonathan Pear, and Fr. John O’Neil to offer observations and prayers.
Fr. Poulakis intoned “remember those O Lord who perished, the innocent victims and the first responders,” and urged his fellow clergy to continue to teach “love, tolerance, co-existence and peace.”
A former official of Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) honored members of all the uniformed services when he said “they responded from all over the tristate Area, as always, immediately and without regard for their own personal safety…to render aid to others.”
He said that while it is important to note that the PAPD suffered the greatest loss of life by any law enforcement agency, “it took place during the most successful rescue in the history of the world. 3000 people died that day, but 30,000 people wer assisted and successfully rescued.”
NYPD’s Lieutenant Morales informed the gathering that on 9/11 343 firefighters, 37 PAPD and 23 NYPD officers lost their lives, and expressed the unspoken thoughts of his colleagues when he said “I hope it doesn’t happen again, but if it does, we will all do the same job we did without a second thought.”
Astoria’s three Greek-American elected officials, State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and City Councilman Costa Constantinides each participated and spoke on Saturday afternoon.
Gianaris later told TNH that “after 13 years its still important that we come together to pay our respects to those who sacrificed themselves…by remembering we remain vigilant and hopefully take the steps necessary to protect ourselves because those who did us harm then would love to come and do it again, so we have to stay prepared and we do that by remembering. “
Simotas added that it is also important for the community to show its appreciation for what the families who lost loved ones continue to go through. “They don’t get to kiss their children, or say hello to their sister, mother and father anymore, but every year we must say ‘thank you’ to the parents of the first responders who lost their lives to protect our freedom.”
Nicholas Papamichael, one of its memorial counselors, spoke to TNH about the importance of St. Michael’s to Astoria. He said when he immediately felt the importance of there being a community representative when he began working there. He called it “a city within a city,” with more than 150,000 Greeks buried there.