EL PASO, Texas (CNS) — Greg Zanis, a carpenter by trade from Aurora, Illinois, has traveled around the country for more than 20 years to place white wooden crosses in memory of shooting victims, and after the mass shootings Aug. 3 and Aug. 4 in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio, his signature crosses are now in those cities.
Zanis, 68, told ABC News the message he wants to send with the crosses is this: “Today it’s the first day they (the victims) get to go to heaven. … they’re not suffering anymore. We’re going to see them again.”
To date Zanis, who retired in 2016, has delivered free of charge more than 26,000 of these wooden memorials to the sites of mass murders and other tragedies across the U.S.
According to his website, he made his first memorial cross in 1996, after finding the body of his father-in-law, who was murdered.
Zanis was a master carpenter by then and worked on house renovations, but finding his father-in-law dead was “the game changer” for him. “Now all that mattered did not matter anymore. That same year, there were car crashes, murders in Aurora, Illinois, and Greg made the first memorial cross,” the site says.
Zanis, a Greek American who is the son and grandson of Greek Orthodox clergy, told ABC News that before he headed to El Paso, he had heard from a family member of one of the victims — she wanted him to make a cross for her brother. But then he decided he didn’t want to go there without having a cross for all the victims — those who were killed and those who were injured. At least 22 died and 26 others were injured.
“Immediately when I heard about it, I made these crosses, I made them fast,” he told ABC News. He drove through the night, arriving in El Paso at about 4 a.m. (local time) Aug. 5.
He has since gone to Dayton, where at least nine people were killed and 27 others were injured.
“We know what it means for someone to extend a hand of love. We love to give you a cross,” says his website. “The crosses are intended to provide comfort.”
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103