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9/11 20 Years Later: A Look Inside Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church As It Rebuilds From Rubble

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A small Greek Orthodox church was the only house of worship destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.

But out of the rubble came a promise to rebuild.

CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis recently toured the new church in Lower Manhattan for a look at the progress.

At Ground Zero, a site so sacred, sits its only religious structure: Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine.

"This church represents light through darkness," said Andrew Veniopoulos, project executive with Friends of Saint Nicholas.

On New York's darkest day, the original church was destroyed. When the South Tower collapsed, the historic house of worship was buried in the rubble.

"My father, when he first immigrated to the United States, came to this church," Veniopoulos said. "This church was always part of me."

Once a parishioner, Veniopoulos is now part of the church's rebirth.

"Every day I come down here. It's just an amazing progress to behold," he told DeAngelis.

Complete Coverage9/11 Twenty Years Later

He walked DeAngelis through the progress made since CBS2's last visit a year ago and showed what's to come.

"This is the actual church in here, we'll have pews here," he explained.

The pews will be set under the dome to soak in services surrounded by beautiful iconography inside.

"There's one in particular over the altar of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child embracing New York City, it's quite profound," Veniopoulos said.

He said there's also a "non-denomination floor," where "people can go there and pray, and we'll have the artifacts that were left over from... the original church."

A place for people of all faiths to reflect, with views of the 9/11 Memorial pools.

"It's going to be a monument, not just for the Greek Orthodox, but a monument for the whole world," said Veniopoulos.

It's a resurrection 20 years in the making. In that time, there were setbacks from mismanagement to misappropriation of funds. But in 2019, Friends of Saint Nicholas was formed to help.

"We raised $100 million just about, and we got the church built," John Catsimatidis said.

The pandemic halted construction, which resumed last August with crews working overtime. This week, they're completing the installation of exterior marble imported from Greece -- the same you see on the Parthenon, which will enhance the church as it illuminates each night.

"The light is going to go from inside the church, through the dome, all the way to the sky. To always have everybody remember where we are," said Catsimatidis.

Lighting up for the first time on the eve of the 20th anniversary, a beacon of hope.

"Obviously, 9/11 was a very solemn and tragic day. But this church represents that light will come through," Veniopoulos added.

The church will open its doors to guests the end of April on Greek Orthodox Easter, a significant day for a special place where all are welcome.

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