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Rising From The Ashes: Construction Continues On St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Only House Of Worship Destroyed On 9/11

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Construction is underway to rebuild the historic Greek Orthodox church destroyed 19 years ago Friday.

CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis takes a look at the history of St. Nicholas National Shrine in Lower Manhattan.

An old photo shows the majestic Twin Towers shining light on St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a place of peace and prayer for 85 years on Cedar Street, until darkness took over on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Luckily nobody was in the church that day, but as the towers were hit, obviously, the south tower came down on top of the church," said Father Evagoras Constantinides, spokesman of the archdiocese.

Only a few sacred items were found in the rubble: Icons, a candelabra, bell, tattered books.

But out of the ashes also came the commitment to rebuild.

"It was the only house of worship that was destroyed on that day, and now it will be the only house of worship back at the site," Constantinides said.

st. nicholas greek orthodox church
credit: CBS2

He brought DeAngelis on the site of the new church to the welcome sight and sounds of crews working, a resurrection nearly two decades in the making.

Construction began at the Liberty Street location in 2015, but setbacks including financial troubles halted it two years later, leaving behind an empty dome, until the nonprofit Friends of St. Nicholas was formed.

"We raised $45 million in January to March to help finish the church," said John Catsmitidis, the vice chairman of Friends of St. Nicholas.

But then came COVID-19, delaying construction again until early August.

"They often say that, you know, good things come to those who wait. And I sincerely believe that St. Nicholas at the World Trade Center is the best thing. So it's OK for us to wait a little bit," Constantinides said.

DeAngelis walked through what's to come, including the entryway, where people will come to light candles.

Inside, there will also be a nondenominational bereavement center - a beautiful, open space, which, on the outside, will glow. A symbol of hope, strength, and unrelenting faith, for all.

"Whether you're Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, you come here to pray, to find solace, to find reason," Catsmitidis said.

"The souls, the lives, the memories of those 3,000 people and their families and their relatives and their friends. All of the people, every single one of us, who has been affected by 9/11, this is a place for us," said Constantinides.

Completion was set for Sept. 11, 2021, and even though the pandemic set construction back, a ceremony is still planned for a year from now to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a day we will never forget.

The archdiocese says while that target date remains, it's likely not going to be completed until next winter or early spring of 2022.

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