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Meeting the pope with painful memories of a brother lost on 9/11

Anthoula Katsimatides places her hand on the name

Anthoula Katsimatides places her hand on the name of her brother, John, engraved at Ground Zero Memorial site on Sept. 11, 2015. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang / Yeong-Ung Yang

In 14 years, Greenport resident Anthoula Katsimatides has met three presidents, and later this month will be introduced to Pope Francis.

But if she had a choice, she happily would forgo all of these encounters.

Katsimatides, 43, lost her brother John Katsimatides on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I wish I was not a part of this," she said last week as tears rolled down her face. "I met three presidents and now the pope. I am a member of a members-only club that I would give up in a second to see my brother for just five minutes."

John A. Katsimatides was a 31-year-old bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald when he was killed on the 104th floor of the north tower.

"The pope asked specifically to speak with families," said Katsimatides, who will attend an interfaith service with the pontiff at the National September 11th Memorial & Museum on Sept. 25.

A member of the museum's board of directors, Katsimatides has met President Barack Obama twice, along with President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton.

"I am meeting these people because I lost my brother," she said.

Speaking from a coffee shop after Friday's 9/11 memorial service, Katsimatides reflected on how her life has changed. Before 9/11, she worked in advertising and later as an assistant for community affairs for Gov. George Pataki.

But 14 years later, Katsimatides is an actress and playwright who touches on matters of the heart that help "unload my pain," she said. "I feel so much. Acting allows me to express that pain. I even get to play happy roles, which takes me out of who I am. I get to be someone else who didn't lose her brother on September 11th."

"I struggle. But I know my brother wouldn't want me wearing black all the time. I had another brother who died before John. I remember [then] John telling me to live my life, and I guess that is what I am doing now. It's just not a life I thought I would have."

Katsimatides is bringing her mother, Calliope Katsimatides, 73, to meet Pope Francis.

"She'll need his blessings," Katsimatides said. "And I will show him a picture of my brother and maybe tell him the story about how John used to go to different churches on Sundays to meet the chicks. John went to a lot of Catholic Masses."

A Greek Orthodox, Calliope Katsimatides said: "I hope I am deserving of the pope's blessing. I really need his blessing. The blessings I receive give me strength and hope. I depend on the blessings of my priests and receiving communion. My faith is what sustains me and the wonderful memories of my boys."

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