ATHENS, Ala. – Many people make lifelong friends when they go to college, and Athens native Stephen Phraner did just that. He says Andreas Giannitsopoulos and him formed a “Tight bond over our faith,” now he has to honor his friend in memory.
Giannitsopoulos, 21, a student at Vanderbilt University was visiting his godfather and dad’s best friend in Surfside, Florida when the Champlain South Tower suddenly collapsed in the early morning hours of June 24, 2021.
Phraner said he was told that Giannitsopoulos’s body was missing and in the coming days, his worst fears would be confirmed by Athanasia Giannitsopoulos, “I believe it was late Wednesday night his sister told me,” Phraner told News 19.
Phraner remembers his friend as, “A very tender hearted, caring and thoughtful friend,” saying he had so many sides to him, “He loved fitness and his plants, he had a portable greenhouse with him.”
Phraner and four others shared a suite at Vanderbilt University, where he says he and Giannitsopoulos’s life long friend John Horner formed a tight bond, “It was a hard year for all of us, because of COVID, but we got to know each other really well,” he says that’s where the friendship really formed, “I feel like we definitely had a strong bond in our faith that we really talked about. We had deep discussions about faith and life in general.”
After a phone call from Kosta Giannitsopoulos, Andreas’s father, he’s headed to Giannitsopoulos’s hometown of Houston, Texas to be his pallbearer at his funeral.
Although it will be tough, Phraner says he’s ready to honor his friends legacy.
“It really motivates me to be the best that I can be for Andreas. To take you know, the impact he had on my life, even in the short amount of time, just in the past year, just take that impact and for me to use that and to love and appreciate others, you know and just be the best person I can be to others,” Phraner said.
A GoFundMe has been set up for the family.