Looking to Rebuild
Tiny Church Was Leveled in World Trade Center Attack

listen Hear Melissa Block's report on St. Nicholas Church.

Oct. 1, 2001 -- It never stood a chance. The tiny building that had housed St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church since 1916 was located across the street from Ground Zero, the place where the twin 110-story towers of the World Trade Center collapsed the morning of Sept. 11. When the dust settled there was virtually nothing left of the church, itself just 20 feet wide, 56 feet long and 35 feet tall.

St. Nicholas Church was dwarfed by the World Trade Center

St. Nicholas Church was dwarfed by the World Trade Center.
Photo: Grisha Ressetar

St. Nicholas interior in 1998

A 1998 service at St. Nicholas Church.
Photo: Dimitrios Panagos

Archbishop Demetrios visits site where St. Nicholas Church stood

Archbishop Demetrios speaks with workers clearing debris from the site where the church once stood.
Photo: Dimitrios Panagos

Miraculously, no one was hurt inside the church. A parishioner who was working in St. Nicholas rushed out of the building moments after the first tower was struck by a hijacked airliner, according to Father John Romas, the church's pastor.

Romas, who visited the church site the day after the attack, described the devastation this way: "It would break your heart. It's one thing to see it on TV, and another thing to see it in person. St. Nicholas is buried under debris. It is the worst thing."

As they struggle to find a new home for their church, its parishioners are raising money to rebuild St. Nicholas, NPR's Melissa Block reports on Morning Edition. And they recently got a surprise donation of $500,000 from the town of Bari, Italy. St. Nicholas was the patron saint of Bari and relics of St. Nicholas were destroyed in the church's collapse.

The feelings of the church were summed up earlier this week by Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, in a full-page advertisement in The New York Times: "Since 1916, the white altar candles of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church shone brightly to welcome all who come for peace. But at 9:59 a.m., September 11, those candles were violently extinguished. The sweet scent of incense was blown away by the acrid smell of senseless destruction. And the walls came tumbling down. Our hearts were crushed. But our spirits will never be."

Other Resources

St. Nicholas Church

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America