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Palos Hills Church Holds A Beam Of Faith: Orthodox priest sees martyrdom at Ground Zero as witness to God's Creation
By Alexandria Lukashonak , Staff Writer.
Source: Palos Hills Reporter, July 8th, 2002

Part of Ground Zero, in the form of 200 pounds of steel beam, is now resting in the narthex of St. Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Church in Palos Hills. The church's pastor, Archpriest Andrew Harrison, a retired Air Force chaplain, returned last Friday night with the relic from the World Trade Center destroyed in the terror of Sept.11.

After months of soul-searching to determine how he and his parishioners could honor those killed last Sept. 11, Harrison wrote a letter expressing his feelings to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg responded that the church could have a chunk of the wreckage. Harrison drove to New York late last month to pick up a portion of steel beam that had once helped to support the Twin Towers.

Upon his arrival at Ground Zero in Manhattan, Harrison was welcomed by construction workers who continue their labor with a sense of reverence. Deeply moved by what he saw, the pastor was reminded of the word "martyr" and the negative feeling it has taken on in recent times. The original meaning of the word is "witness," he noted. He came away from that ground with the feeling that those who died there and those who worked in the rescue operation are true martyrs, witnesses to what is good in God's creation, he said. The large gaping hole that was once a testimony to man's creative ability gives a person a strong feeling of being in a holy place, he explained.

There are reminders everywhere: photos of loved ones, notes, letters, flowers, and signs declaring "We will never forget," and because bodies are still being found "This is a cemetery."

Harrison was given the freedom to walk wherever he wished. He went to the site of the former St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a small city parish that ministered to the workday community. The church was completely destroyed, and the safe containing the relics of St. Nicholas has not been found. On visiting nearby St. Paul's Church, a sign at the entrance that greets visitors with these words, Do not call it Ground Zero - call it ground of Heroes."

As part of St. Luke Church's renovation and expansion program, five bronze bells are now being cast in Russia. They will be blessed and placed in the church's new bell tower. It will become the final resting-place of the piece of the Twin Towers. Instead of overlooking the city streets of lower Manhattan, however, it will overlook the peaceful forest preserves and rolling hills of Palos.

The church at 107th Street and Kean Avenue once housed old Sacred Heart Church and is a designated historic site.

On Sept. 11, at 8 a.m., the church will be visited by The Most Reverend Job, bishop of Chicago and Midwest of the Orthodox Church in America. A memorial service will be held for all those who lost lives on that sunny September morning in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC Bell ringers will toll the bells, once, every second for 15 minutes for each of the 2,823 victims. All are welcome to the services