YORK — 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, at once,
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
“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,
A cross formed from a falling steel I-beam at the former World Trade Center towers was placed outside St. Peter’s Catholic Church in lower Manhattan where Kevin Madigan kept watch over it until its pending move to the National September 11 Memorial &
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
“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, Calif.
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
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 in a few weeks, then truck it
cross-country. It will be installed in early May.
“It’s as big an honor as there possibly can be,” Krawczyk
said. “I’m overwhelmed by the significance. To memorialize the sacrifice of the
people and the loss of life in art, well, I’m not sure I can put it into words.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Di Ionno writes for The Star-Ledger in Newark,
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