The cross of steel I-beams from the World Trade Center, found as rescue and recovery workers dug through the pile after 9/11, is being moved from the site to a nearby church. The cross had become controversial as some people believed it should remain at the WTC site as part of a memorial for the dead, while others said that such an obvious religious symbol should not be part of a memorial on public property, especially since religion was a motivator for the attacks.
I think the latter argument is bunk. The first consideration should be for those who died and their survivors as well as the people of New York. Worries about the feelings of those who were co-religionists of the attackers are misplaced, and frankly any who don’t understand the solace we take in such symbolism aren’t worth worrying about. Many Jews and Muslims in this country understand the significance and importance of civic religious symbols, even if they are not their own. This isn’t the construction of a symbol from nothing, but the preservation of an artifact from the site, which many of those involved in the transfer recognize.
The 2-ton, 20-foot-high cross was placed on a flatbed truck for the three-block trip to its new home, St. Peter’s Church, which had served as a sanctuary for recovery workers searching for human remains from the Sept. 11 attack.
“This piece of steel meant more to many people than any piece of steel ever,” said Richard Sheirer, head of the city Office of Emergency Management five years ago. “It goes beyond any religion.” Ironworkers sang “God Bless America” as hundreds of people walked behind the cross to its temporary home facing ground zero outside the 18th-century church, the city’s oldest Roman Catholic parish.
St. Peter’s was also the home parish of Fr. Mychal Judge, the Franciscan friar who was also a fire department chaplain and a casualty at the site as he ministered to the fallen.
The cross itself will only remain church temporarily during the reconstruction of the World Trade Center. The plan is to move it back to the site and make it a permanent part of the memorial.
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