Ground Zero cross on the move again

April 6, 2011

The cross at Ground Zero was one of thousands of I-beams used to
construct the iron skeletons of the World Trade Center towers. This one
fell from the fiery, apocalyptic heavens during the 9/11 terror attacks
and stuck upright in the ground, in a field of similar but smaller
crosses.

The iconic cross rose higher than the others above the
twisted steel, concrete slabs and human remains. When the smoke subsided
and the dust and ashes settled, it emerged as a beacon—a sacred symbol
of both survival and remembrance.

Almost immediately rescue
workers and firefighters scratched out memorial messages on the 20-foot
cross. A shrine was created, services were held.

It was later
blessed and draped with a sheet-metal shroud from the wreckage, then
hoisted atop a concrete stanchion from the destroyed plaza at the corner
of Church and Liberty streets.

The symbolism was obvious: church,
liberty, religious freedom—concepts that separate America from its
attackers. The cross stayed there until October 2006, when it was moved
for preliminary construction work at the site.

"It was headed to a
warehouse in Long Island, but the firefighters and construction workers
objected, so we offered to put it here," said Kevin Madigan, the pastor
at nearby St. Peter's Church, the city's oldest Catholic parish and
where St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American to be canonized,
worshiped.

The cross will soon move again, to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at Ground Zero.

"The
way I understand it, the cross will stand in an apse, which will be
built around it," Madigan said. "So the cross has to be in place before
construction [of the apse] begins."

The church will not be without
a 9/11 cross for long. Sculptor Jon Krawczyk is making a replacement, a
stainless steel 9/11 Memorial Cross. "It will be highly polished, so
people will be able to see themselves in it and hopefully reflect on
their lives and lives lost in the terror attack," Krawczyk said from his
studio in Malibu, California.

Krawczyk's 9/11 cross will have
three pieces of metal saved from the World Trade Center debris. "That
metal will be used where Christ's hands and feet would have been
nailed," he said. "Those pieces will stand out because they are rusted."

The
vertical beam of the cross will be 14 feet high and the horizontal beam
will be 11 feet wide. It's the largest cross Krawczyk has made.

The
commission came to Krawczyk after a patron of the archdiocese agreed to
fund a cross in New York. "She wanted it in any church," Madigan said,
"We knew we were losing the 9/11 cross, so [retired] Cardinal [Edward]
Egan offered it to us."

Since then, the benefactor decided to
withdraw her offer, so Krawczyk and the gallery that represents his work
are raising funds through the church. Krawczyk will finish the cross,
then truck it cross-country. It will be installed in early May.  —RNS