Symbols Of Hope
Illinois craftsman who made Aurora crosses also made memorials for Columbine victims 13 years ago.
His tools are buzz saw and boards, his canvas some of nation's most horrific tragedies: Oklahoma City, 9/11, Columbine...and now Aurora.
"I've been making crosses really, since I was 6-years-old in Nashville," he says.
Now he builds them outside his home in Aurora, Illinois.
The thousands of simple white crosses have become a symbol of survival during some of our nation's darkest hours.
They are different dimensions, different heights.
A lot of what he builds depends on the wood he gets, but each of the crosses carries the exact same message.
"It's a message of hope, it's not loss, it's a victory," Zanis explains.
Zanis does it all for free.
He won't even take donations and will only go if he's invited by family members of the victims.
His labor of love is personal.
Zanis' father-in-law was murdered in 1996.
Therapy and counseling couldn't help him get through the grief.
Instead, the carpenter found his peace in these crosses.
"I think about him every time I build a cross," Zanis says. "I think about how happy he is looking down."
A comfort shared with those who need it the most right now.
"I'm just glad I don't have a cross up there," Harmony Johnson says.
She was shot that night in the theater.
She survived, but lost two of her friends.
Like thousands in aurora she is drawn to the crosses.
"It's been a place for me to grieve, to pray," she says. "It's drawn me closer to God and it's drawn me closer to Aurora and I couldn't be happier to be part of this community and the guy that set this up."
Gratitude, shared by a grieving nation.