Members of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church are determined to rebuild their church, located 500 feet from ground zero, after it was buried under steel girders and concrete in last week's terrorist attack.

One parishioner was in the building during the attack but escaped. "It would break your heart," Father John Romas said of the destruction. "It's one thing to see it on TV, and another thing to see it in person."

The church building was constructed in 1832. Greek immigrants established the church in 1916.

Archdiocese spokesman Nikki Stephanopoulos says that in its early days, the building was a place of worship for sailors and other travelers after their ships docked along the coast. In the last 20 years, it has been described as a reminder of faith and spirituality in the city as church members resisted attempts by developers to buy the property. The church, which has about 50 members, had been opening its doors to the community for prayer and contemplation during Wednesday lunch breaks.

Romas is hoping to retrieve several of the icons given to the church by Czar Nicholas II of Russia and relics of St. Nicholas, St. Katherine, and St. Sava that were kept in an ossuary on the top floor of the four-story building. Stephanopoulos says the church has permission to recover the relics, but several weeks may pass before construction workers are available to begin clearing the debris.

The church has received condolences from around the world, and donations from Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians.

Stephanopoulos says that although the church will probably rebuild within the next 5 to 10 years, "right now, our major concern is elsewhere." The archdiocese is providing relief and counseling for those affected by the attacks.

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