By Tonia N. Cimino
September 11, 2001, unquestionably a date that will live in infamy, diametrically altered the lives of millions and changed the world forever.
Elias Colombotos of Astoria remembers it as if it were yesterday: the day the world stood still his world stood still.
Colombotos girlfriend at the time, Cynthia, had gone to work downtown as usual, as had thousands of others that fateful morning. A staffing agency representative, her day had begun without incident, until the first tower was struck. She immediately called Colombotos, who, like so many others, turned to the local news and broadcast media to find out if the nightmare was, in fact, real.
"I turned on the TV and saw that the two towers were on fire," said Colombotos. "I was just so overwhelmed because something like that had never happened before."
Still able to keep in touch with his girlfriend via the telephone, he had no idea what to do, where to go.
"It was so terrible," he told The Queens Courier. "It was such a new thing all the rules we had lived by all these years were changed. What made it worse was that I didnt know if Id ever see her again."
For hours he heard no word. Colombotos was left hoping, wondering and worrying.
Finally, she made it home, and, according to Colombotos, "It was a precious moment."
Absolutely traumatized by the terrorist act, the pair, like so many others, was then left to deal with their shock, pain and grief.
"It was like a dream state," said Colombotos. "I was totally devastated. I cried for a year because I felt like I knew every one of those 3,000 victims."
His girlfriend had her own coping techniques. "She had nightmares and suffered trauma," said Colombotos. "She wouldnt even talk about it until five days later, when she woke up crying. It was really hard to watch her go through that. And as a result, she stopped riding the subway and eventually resigned from her job."
Colombotos realizes that September 11 was the day that we were all one, all American regardless of color or creed.
"What I know is that 9/11 completely changed my outlook as an American," he said. "It made me politically active; I want to regain that sense of nationalism we had achieved in the days following the attacks."
In the three years since the tragedy, Colombotos has tried to move on.
"People say that we all have to move on," he said. "But I think that that happens organically. What we really have to do is make a conscious effort to commemorate. You have to try to remember."
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