Many learned of the horrific massacre in Las Vegas through social media or news reports, but not Greg Zanis. The 66-year-old carpenter learned of the United States’ deadliest mass shooting when an employee from ArchAngels Biorecovery, a provider of crime clean up services, showed up at his house with a check for $1,200 to be used for gas.
“At first, when he told me what happened, I didn’t believe him,” Zanis told the Chicago Tribune. “And then I just cried.”
When Zanis received notice of the tragedy he immediately got to work.
For the past 20 years Zanis has been building crosses in honor of victims of mass shootings. According to the Associated Press, Zanis made his first cross when his father-in-law was killed and he hasn’t stopped since.
“That just changed my life,” Zanis told the Associated Press. “My first cross was for somebody that I loved. And when I put up these crosses here, I always think of my personal loss here too. Always.”
Previously Zanis delivered crosses to Columbine, Sandy Hook, and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Once all 58 crosses were built—along a few extra in case the death toll rises—Zanis loaded up his truck and headed to Las Vegas.
My neighbor, Greg Zanis is heading to LV w/crosses.Been doing this since Columbine in 1999.Pray for safe travels.
— Brooke Brianna (@WeDidntSuck2016) October 3, 2017
Each white cross was affixed with a heart, a victim’s name, and a photo if one was available. Zanis even made sure Stars of David were there for Jewish victims.
Before he left his home in Illinois and made the nearly 2,000 mile drive he was unsure where the memorial would go, though it was determined his crosses would be placed in front of the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.
Volunteers helped unload the crosses and assemble the memorial.
— Jackie Valley (@JackieValley) October 5, 2017
While the number of those killed during the deadliest mass shooting is enough to bring up a number of emotions, Zanis believes seeing the crosses occupy 250 feet of space along the Las Vegas Strip will be just as powerful.
“This row of crosses will show the severity of what really happened there,” he told WGN9. “More so than numbers and pictures in the paper.”
Today, 58 white crosses stand as a reminder of those we lost in the senseless shooting.
The reaction to Zanis’ crosses has been extremely positive. People have written messages of gratitude on his Facebook page, Crosses for Losses, as well as posted photos of the memorial on social media.
One commenter on YouTube who goes by Dominique wrote, “I’m from Las Vegas, born and raised and currently still resides here, and this is amazing. I went and looked at them today and they are beautiful; an incredibly sweet and kind gesture. #VegasStrong”
Since the crosses arrived, many have come to pay their respects.
Zanis plans to leave the memorial up for 40 days and after he will give the crosses to the victims’ families.
Zanis’ son Chris has set up a fundraising page on GoFundMe to help his dad raise funds for the crosses.