With thousands of faithful in some two-dozen parishes in the metropolitan New York City area, the Orthodox Church in America has not been untouched by the tragic events surrounding the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center September 11, 2001.
“Calls have been placed to all parishes in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area to determine if any OCA parishioners who work in or near the World Trade Center were unaccounted for,” according to the Very Rev. John Matusiak, OCA Communications Director. “While we have found that a large number of parishioners had indeed been in or near the site, it appears that none perished as of Thursday afternoon.”
A steady stream of reports on OCA faithful who were in the towers as they were struck have been filtering in to the Communications Office, however.
Mr. Gregory Shark, a member of Holy Resurrection Church, Wayne, NJ, was on an upper-level floor of tower one when the first plane struck, but managed to escape just moments before the tower collapsed.
Mrs. Shirley Lickwar, wife of the Very Rev. Joseph Lickwar of Saints Peter and Paul Church, Jersey City, NJ, who works three days a week at the World Trade Center, was running late for work when she learned of the tragedy.
“Just as I arrived at the PATH station, the first plane struck the tower,” says Mrs. Lickwar, who immediately returned home. “People who were being evacuated from lower Manhattan were being ferried to Jersey City, where medical teams immediately had set up stations, and many of the stunned commuters came to the church, where we offered what hospitality we could.”
Father Lickwar added that “a steady stream of smoke could be seen throughout the day from the place where the towers had risen. It was surreal.”
Suffering destruction at “ground zero” was Saint Nicholas Church, a parish of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which stood across the street from the World Trade Center. Reports confirm that the church was not open at the time of the tragic incident.
“While OCA Chancery staff will continue to monitor the situation in New York area parishes, we do ask that any faithful affected by the disaster keep in contact as the situation develops,” said Father Matusiak.
Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, the Very Rev. John Stefero, an Orthodox US Air Force Chaplain, was in the Pentagon when the plane sliced through the side of the massive building. Father Stefero immediately assisted in relief efforts. Further details on the situation of OCA faithful in the Washington, DC area are still filtering in.