The 58 white crosses lined up on a 250-foot-long patch of grass shed light on the brutality of the Las Vegas shooting. The elderly carpenter who built the memorial hopes it will provide solace to the Las Vegas community after the tragic massacre.
The Las Vegas mass shooting on Oct. 1 killed 59 people and injured 527 others. In honor of these victims, a retired Chicago-area carpenter, Greg Zanis, 66, loaded 58 handmade wooden crosses onto his truck in the middle of the night and drove nearly 2,000 miles from Illinois to Nevada. He then erected these white crosses on a green turf near the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, not far from the site where the shooting took place.
It took Zanis two days to cut and paint these 58 crosses at his Aurora workshop. Each cross bears the victim’s name, age, and photo. In addition, he attached a big handmade heart to the front of each cross.
“I’m a carpenter doing something about it, trying to bring a face to this,” Zanis told the CBS Chicago.
Some of the crosses feature memorabilia, such as a black cowboy hat, pictures, or messages written by the victims’ friends and family.
“When you see these lined up for 250 feet, it’s going to show the severity of what happened over there,” said Zanis, who made the crosses after receiving requests from the relatives of a few of the victims.
Zanis is known for erecting more than 20,000 markers across the country over the past two decades. He has previously installed crosses for victims of other mass killings, including the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, and the movie theater shooting in Colorado.
He made his first cross when his father-in-law was murdered in January 1996. “That just changed my life,” Zanis said. “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.”
Zanis hopes the cross that had helped him cope with his father-in-law’s death would also provide closure for the Las Vegas community.
Heather Melton, whose husband, James “Sonny” Melton, 29, was killed while shielding her from bullets, visited the memorial with her three children and mother-in-law.
“I think the (memorial) is really nice. It’s comforting, but also it’s just really heartbreaking,” a teary Melton told the Las Vegas Review Journal.
“People need to get out there and see it for themselves,” Zanis said. “When you cry a little bit, it’s so much easier to cope with it.”
The crosses will be planted for 40 days, after which, Zanis will give them to the families of the victims.