Af­ter 27K me­mo­rial crosses, he’s at cross­roads

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD -

AURORA, Ill. — An Illi­nois man who made more than 27,000 crosses to com­mem­o­rate vic­tims of mass shoot­ings across the coun­try is re­tir­ing.

Greg Za­nis came to re­al­ize, af­ter 23 years, his Crosses for Losses min­istry was be­gin­ning to take a per­sonal and fi­nan­cial toll on him, ac­cord­ing to The Bea­con-News.

“I had a break­ing point in El Paso,” he said, re­fer­ring to the mass shoot­ing out­side of a Wal­mart in Texas. “I hadn’t slept for two days, it was 106 de­grees and I col­lapsed from the pres­sure when I heard there were two more vic­tims of the mass shoot­ing.”

Za­nis has set up crosses af­ter the school shoot­ings at Columbine, Sandy Hook and Park­land. He also placed crosses af­ter the Las Ve­gas mu­sic fes­ti­val shoot­ing and the Orlando night­club shoot­ing.

“I leave a piece of my heart be­hind each time I go,” he said.

In 2016 he made over 700 crosses that were car­ried along Michigan Av­enue in Chicago to honor each per­son who had been killed that year.

Ear­lier this year, Za­nis found him­self mak­ing crosses for his very own home­town af­ter a Henry Pratt Co. em­ployee opened fire on his co-work­ers.

“Af­ter Orlando, it never stopped,” Za­nis said of the mass shoot­ings. “The coun­try had me on the road for a while ev­ery week. I have driven 850,000 miles to put up crosses. I slept in my truck and never had the money to cover what I was do­ing.”

With do­na­tions from time to time, Za­nis mainly re­lied on his own re­sources to build the crosses.

“At one point last year, I was $10,000 in debt and some­body covered that for me,” he said. “Now I am $14,000 in debt.

His work had a very di­rect mean­ing for him.

“I feel is is not the end of the min­istry. It is the end of me do­ing it,” he said.

JOHN LOCHER/AP

Greg Za­nis places crosses at a makeshift me­mo­rial for vic­tims of a mass shoot­ing at a Wal­mart in El Paso, Texas.

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