A Symbol of Hope During America’s Darkest Hour

by MSO

The cross found in the rubble of the World Trade Center will be dedicated and moved to the 9/11 Memorial on September 11, 2011 in a ceremony for victims' families. It will be open to the public the following day.

This was such an important part of how people dealt with September 11.

~ Former Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani

When the dust settled and the acrid smoke cleared, New Yorkers and the millions of people across the world were left with the grisly sight of what became known as Ground Zero. What once used to be the complex of several buildings found in the heart of New York City’s downtown financial district, had now become a graveyard of rubble and the former site of the city’s most well known Twin Towers.

During the darkest day in American history, all that remained of the World Trade Center were the fragmented remains of shattered blocks of concrete, bent and crooked steel beams, and the skeletal remains of the former buildings, which had been reduced to a shattered wreckage of a dilapidated network of walls, floors and metal siding.

This was post-9/11, and with the trauma and devastation of the unprecedented attacks still present, still vivid, the morale of the people was diminished to merely clinging to the hope that rescue efforts would prove successful. Over the next eight months, as cleanup and recovery carried on, long through the day and into the night for 24 hours, the weight of destitution and fatigue began to take its toll, until one discovery at Building 6 changed that.

Two days after terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, Americans found a beacon of hope amidst the rubble in the form of a cross-shaped steel beam. Quickly, this remnant of the World Trade Center became a symbol of hope, comfort and resilience to a nation that had been scarred by terrorism.

It was on September 13, when alongside firefighters, Frank Silecchia, a laborer of the Building, Concrete, Excavating & Common Laborers Union Local 731, took part in the still-hopeful sweep for survivors among the wreckage of the World Trade Center. As the men scoured the site they named the Pile, they remained hopeful that they would find survivors, but after several hours of work, only three lifeless bodies had been found.

With so much destruction and despair, Silecchia was drained. Flyers had been tacked to walls; photos of missing persons, faces of husbands and wives; brothers and sisters, as people desperately sought to seek closure for their heartache. Many were filled with resentment, anger and pain by so much destruction, and many more flew their flags, held vigils, and prayed that their loved ones would be found, even after 82 deaths had been confirmed by Wednesday night.

It had been a long day for Silecchia. Surrounded by absolute silence, exhausted and worn by the devastation strewn before him, Silecchia searched for a place to catch his breath. With the odor emitting from the site and dust still lingering in the air, Silecchia made his way through the atrium of what was once Building 6 of the World Trade Center. With only the light from a flashlight providing him visibility, the construction professional stumbled across something breathtaking, something inspiring, something entirely enlightening. Almost as if it were emerging from the ground among the rubble was a vertically planted steel cross and beyond it, Silecchia remembered others like it.

While it wasn’t uncommon for beams to be prefabricated on site, during the construction of the World Trade Center, it became a general practice to bolt and weld steel together in an effort to reduce costs and increase the pace of construction. However, what Silecchia saw that day was something more than just a network of pieced steel created for time-saving, economical convenience. What he saw was inspiration, enlightenment and hope. Even after feeling a jolt of rejuvenation, the burly laborer wept.

That night, in spray paint, he painted the words House of God on the twisted and decayed wall of the atrium and for the next month, the spot quickly became a pilgrimage site for the tired workers and firefighters, who would gather at the cross, treating it as a shrine, leaving messages on it and praying before it. What once had been a two-ton, 20-foot high piece of one of the Twin Towers had now become a symbol of hope, healing and faith.

“I saw Calvary in the midst of all the wreckage, the disaster,” Silecchia recalled. “It was a sign that God didn’t desert us.”

Weeks passed and soon the cross became an impediment to nearby work, but in early October the office of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani gave approval to have the cross mounted to a pedestal and relocated to a portion of the former plaza on Church Street near Liberty.

To commemorate the lives lost during the World Trade Center attacks, a replica of the cross has been installed at the gravesite of the first recorded casualty, NYFD Chaplain Father Mychal Judge (mysendoff.com | The Last Hours of a Holy Hero).

While the use of the cross in the World Trade Center Memorial has stirred controversy among organizations such as the American Atheists and the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, the World Trade Center Cross will be moved back to Ground Zero and lowered into the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

Read more:

20 Foot Tall Cross Found Standing in Rubble at Ground Zero


World Trade Center Memorial Cross | Vimeo

WTC Cross Added to 9/11 Museum | YouTube

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