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July 25th, 2012
11:25 AM ET

Driven by personal tragedy, man builds crosses for Aurora victims, thousands of others

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) - In a vacant lot across from the site of last week’s movie theater shooting, 12 white crosses stand solemnly, their arms covered in messages of hope and the ground around them full of flowers.

For the loved ones of the 12 killed in the Aurora, Colorado, theater, the crosses have become a focal point of remembrance, a place to memorialize victims and pray for their families and friends. But for the man who built the white crosses, each just over 3 feet tall, the crosses are something more: symbols of his own survival since tragedy struck his family 16 years ago.

Greg Zanis, an electrician from Aurora, Illinois, said he has built 13,000 crosses in that time, each a memorial for a victim of an American tragedy.

He traveled to Tucson, Arizona, after the 2011 shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, ventured to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts after John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a 1999 plane crash there and went to Colorado after the Columbine school shooting that same year.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Zanis, a former carpenter, usually spends four hours each Sunday building crosses and said he “can do them blindfolded.” Though he varies the cross design based on available lumber, he has a few basic styles, including a flat cross that can be attached to walls or fences and another one that can be staked into the ground at rural sites.

After the Aurora shooting, Zanis got calls from family members of Columbine victims who wanted to see how he was doing and thank him again for the crosses he built for them. It is those kinds of connections, Zanis said, that made him travel to Aurora last weekend.

“It is overwhelming to think about all the crosses I have put up,” Zanis said. “I am doing it for the victims, but this is a public grieving. This allows the public a place to go to and have that big cry.”

Readers weigh in: Where was God in Aurora?

Zanis’ voice cracked as he told CNN in a phone interview the stories of victims’ families he met in Aurora and described praying with the city’s mayor, Steve Hogan.

“I am having a hard time because I heard so many of these stories in person,” Zanis said from Illinois, where he returned after spending a few hours in Colorado over the weekend.

Zanis said he began building crosses in 1996 after discovering his father-in-law dead from a gunshot wound to his head. Zanis described the scene in his father-in-law’s office, where he found the body, as “gruesome” and difficult to discuss. The killer was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Zanis attended support group meetings to deal with the grief but said that none of them helped much. In an effort to cope, the lifelong Christian built a white cross and displayed it at his home as a permanent memorial to his father-in-law.

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Later that same year, a young boy was gunned down in Zanis' town. The victim’s mother asked Zanis to build her a white cross as a way for her to remember her son. He obliged and has been building crosses ever since.

After a local newspaper quoted Zanis saying he’d build a cross for anyone grieving from loss, he began getting weekly calls from around Illinois. Now he receives around three calls a day from people all over the country asking for crosses, many of them families with victims of gun violence.

But Zanis said he believes that shooting deaths are “not about the gun” - he carries one with him at times. “I don’t think I am going to go murder somebody,” he said. “We need to be able to defend ourselves.”

Zanis doesn’t charge for the crosses and said he doesn’t accept donations for them. When he has the opportunity to deliver the crosses, he said he looks for a chance to talk and pray with families.

“When I talk to a family member, I talk to them differently than other people would - I share my loss and that just opens them up to sharing their loss,” Zanis said. “This is a perfect thing for me to do.”

And for those who want to stay in touch, he said he is happy to be someone who will listen.

“I tell them that I am going to answer the phone even at night. I am going to be there for you, and while I won’t always have the best answer for you, I will tell you that you are going to see them again in heaven,” Zanis said. “It isn’t final yet, I will say, and people relate to that.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Christianity • Colorado • Violence

soundoff (752 Responses)
  1. neal

    Mr. Zanis i would like to say sorry for all of the bad publicity that you may have heard or read about the way you are helping the families of this awful incident. I think what you are doing is wonderful and hopefully brings a measure of peace to every family whose life that you have personally touched so far. TO ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE OUT THERE HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF SOMETHING BAD HAD HAPPENED TO A MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY? WOULD'NT YOU WANT SOME1 TO SAY SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS AND HERE IS A SYMBOL OF MY HEARTFELT LOSS? I pray to GOD every night to say thank you for keeping me and my co-workers, who are like my extended family members, safe after a long and sometimes stressful day at work and hope that everyone gets home safely. Mr. Zanis, i hope that you will keep up the great work that you are doing for all of the families that you are trying to help with their grieving hearts.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  2. J Smith

    Some people are so open-minded that their brains fell out.

    Some people have nothing better to do than get on the internet and argue for the sake of arguing, with no rational thought behind it. Probably lazy welfare recipients or "unemployment" bums who would rather live off someone else's hard-earned dollars than take any responsibility for themselves.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  3. glambyelle

    I do not see anything wrong with what he is doing! The hatred and anger I'm seeing in these comments is PRECISELY what is wrong with our nation and is EXACTLY the cause of evil that we see in the news....peace and love conquers all. Give the man some credit.

    July 29, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • Tony

      I don't see anything wrong in WHAT he is doing, either. Nor in the WHY. It's the HOW that is at issue. He has placed 12 crosses, each representing one of the 12 deceased victims. The crosses are CHRISTIAN icons, representing the CHRISTIAN faith. Thus, by using CHRISTIAN crosses, he is implying that the victim it represents was a CHRISTIAN. Now, if ALL 12 victims were, indeed, Christians, then his use of such a symbol is appropriate. However, if any of the victims were NOT Christian, then the use of an overtly Christian symbol becomes disrespectful to the deceased. DO you believe that the deceased, the person the item is meant to memorialize, would want to be remembered via a symbol they would not have associated themselves with in life? As I've said elsewhere, would you memorialize a football player with soccer memorabilia simply because they are both sports? Or play jazz music for someone who hated jazz? Would you place YOUR picture or name on another person's memorial?

      The purpose of a MEMORIAL is to REMEMBER the deceased. This is most appropriately done through items reminiscent of things they liked in life, things that remind people of THEM. And a Christian cross will not remind people of the deceased if that person was not a Christian.

      If you're going to invoke religious iconography to memorialize someone, it is most appropriate to use an icon THEY were associated with in life, such as a Star of David for a Jew, or a crescent moon for a Muslim, for example. Of course, you can always use something secular if you do not KNOW the person's religion.

      Again, if all 12 victims were Christian, then the use of a cross is appropriate. But then this goes back to MY original post that it is interesting that God allowed ONLY Christians to be murdered in a theater audience that undoubtedly contained many non-Christians. God protected EVERY non-Christian (including atheists) in that theater. If that is how God works, it seems like a good reason to convert from Christianity.

      July 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  4. Seyedibar

    Christians love to obsess over death. But making making a tiny little wooden execution device for each injured person is going a little too far. I'd certainly be offended.

    July 28, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  5. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    My husband and I agree totally with you, Ann. We are sorry for your loss.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  6. Kindness

    Kindness
    This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    July 28, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  7. trekie70

    Kudos to this guy for trying to bring comfort to the victims' families. Unlike some ministers who recently have made very offensive comments, Zanis offers hope,not condemnation. I suppose the cross could be a negative symbol to some but one has to look at the context in which it is used. I'm certain that Zanis would respect the request of someone not to put their family member's name on a cross-all you have to do is ask.

    July 27, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  8. Aurora

    What a lovely gesture of kindness and thoughtfulness. Our thots and prayers go out to all the victims of this horrible tragedy.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • PAUL

      HAS ANYONE EVER SEEN HEAVEN OR HELL!!!

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWkS7pf9hKE&w=640&h=360]

      July 27, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    July 26, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Still praying for personal wealth and a naked man?

      July 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!|

      July 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  10. ArthurP

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    The devil is here

    ... more to come ...

    July 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      no i'm over her

      July 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  11. ArthurP

    666

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    July 26, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  12. ..

    The great dot dot is here.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  13. Reality

    Putting the Aurora Horror into Persepctive:

    The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:
    M. White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u (required reading)

    The Muslim Conquest of India

    "The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

    Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*

    1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")

    2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

    3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

    4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

    5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)

    6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)

    7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)

    8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

    9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

    10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

    11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

    12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)

    13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

    14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

    15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

    16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

    17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Pagans)

    18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)

    19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

    20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

    July 26, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Sam Yaza

      17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Pagans)

      correction Pagans vs Christians

      Christians are the 4th of the fall of Rome

      the echos of Rome
      1, Pride
      2, collapse of infrastructure
      3, Barbarians at the gates/ terrorism
      4, Christians take over of the nation

      July 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Reality

      Fall of Rome indeed, Pagans vs. Christians:

      Added details:

      From the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire,, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u

      "Volume Three: ■390 CE – Punishment of Thessalonika: 7-15,000
      ■Catholic Encyclopedia "Thessalonica": Theodosius massacred 7,000
      ■B. near Aquileia: 10,000 aux
      ■406 CE – Stilicho & Franks v Vandals and Alans: 20,000 Vandals
      ■Theodoric v. Burgundians: 20,000 Burgs
      ■Relieving siege of Narbonne: 8,000 Goths
      ■Franks v. Gepids: 50,000
      ■451 CE – Chalons: 162,000 or 300,000 (Gibbon: "exaggerations")
      ■Gepid revolt: 30,000 enemies of Ardaric
      ■4,096 Roman herded away to death by Hunneric
      ■Natanleod lost 5,000 fighting Cerdic"

      July 27, 2012 at 12:26 am |
  14. Lauren

    It is a sad day when people get offended over random acts of kindness. Forget about the cross being a Christian symbol, and why don't you just view it for what it is – one man's message of hope, love and compassion to the victims and their loved ones.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Anon

      We of us consider the Christian cross to be an equivalent of the Nazi swastika, that's why.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Anon

      Many of us consider the Christian cross to be an equivalent of the Nazi swastika, that's why.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Lauren

      Sorry you feel that way, but I think you need to stop dwelling on the fact that it was a cross. Look at the meaning behind it, please. I think you will find that he had very good intentions. What if he had lit a candle instead? Candles mean various things in many religions – should we all be offended then? Seriously, look at it like a human being instead of as someone who despises Christianity, for whatever reason.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • W247

      Only the mass media can turn the cross into a symbol of hate when it was meant as a symbol of hope and ultimate sacrifice. To equate is to a Nazi swastika is just ignorance and a blatant attempt to inflame emotions that are already high.

      July 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Anon

      There was no "ultimate sacrifice". It's all a farce based on myth.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the bitter D.ou.ch.e

      Really Anon.....really....

      July 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      IN that case, how are they then equivalent?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Cassandra

      I agree with Lauren. Why are we bashing this symbol of hope, and a great thing this stranger did for others. He was bringing people together, not stamping the site with religious beliefs. He prayed a couple times with families that asked for it, he did not force them to pray.

      Anon, who are these "we" you are talking about. All the years I have been living not once have I come across a human being who related the Chritian cross with a swastika symbol? I would like to see who these "we" people are.

      Honestly, like Lauren said, look at the humanity side of it. This man did a great thing during a terrible time!

      July 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Tony

      @Cassandra:
      I, for one, am not "bashing" the cross itself, I'm opposing it's use in a situation which may be inconsiderate of the deceased. If all 12 deceased victims were Christians, then the use of an overtly Christian icon, like the cross, is appropriate. If any were not Christian, then the use of a symbol so widely associated with a faith the person it is meant to honor did not practice is not respectful of the deceased. Any such symbols, religious or not, with which the individual did not associate themselves with in life is inappropriate in death. For example, if a star football player who hated soccer died , would you consider it appropriate to memorialize him with soccer memorabilia (they're both sports!)?

      I am also not opposed to WHAT or WHY Mr. Zanis does what he does. For his thoughtfulness I commend him I have never maintained or stated that his heart was not in the right place just, like most Christians, his brain. If he is placing crosses ON HIS OWN, without consulting the victims' families as to the religious beliefs of the deceased, his use of such iconography may well be inappropriate. At a time like this, my thoughts are for the victims, their families/friends and everyone else IN THAT ORDER. What makes HIM or YOU happy or comfortable is subordinate to what would have made the deceased happy or comfortable.

      Again, if all 12 victims were Christian, then this entire discussion as related to them is moot.

      As for equating the cross to the swastika, I wonder how much you know about the swastika's history, beyond it's use by the Nazis. The swastika was and IS widely used in Indian (not the Native American variety) religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. According to wikipedia, the word literally means "to be good". The swastika is to the Indian religions what the cross is to Christians. Im sorry if the facts offend you.

      July 27, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • One one

      The cross is an instrument of torture, blood, and death, all three of which Christians are obsessed. They symbolically eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood. They even speak of being washed in the blood of Jesus. It's a blood and death cult.

      July 27, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • steward

      A "Nazi" swastika? Please, don't forget, Hitler stole the swastika from the Hindus (who DO use it in both directions.) If you expect people not to be offended by the fact that the cross is the symbol of Christianity, then you should equally expect people not to be offended by the fact that the Hindu swastika was used for a very short time in history by the German Government.

      July 29, 2012 at 3:33 am |
    • Tony

      It is BECAUSE of the Nazi use of the swastika that most people WOULD be offended by it's use on a memorial. Most people are unaware of the symbol's benign meanings and only associate it with the Nazis. However, the argument has been presented that non-Christians should not be offended by the use of the cross placed by a Christian because they (Christians) would not be offended by the placement of a Star of David by a Jew or a crescent placed by a Muslim. By extension that means they would also not be offended by a swastika placed by a Hindu. But that would not be the case. A swastika would cause a tremendous uproar by everyone, ESPECIALLY Christians.

      July 30, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  15. mikey

    Don't give your pearls to pigs, give it to those worthy.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  16. Keith

    “We recognise the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation, that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage,” said Obama during remarks made at a National Urban League Conference in New Orleans.

    In reality, the founders put the second amendment in the bill of rights not to ensure Americans could enjoy hunting or target practice, but as a protection against government tyranny.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Keith

      Luk 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take [it], and likewise [his] scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • SaveTheUSA

      In the revolutionary days, an armed militia could plausibly take on the federal army. Can you imagine such a thing today? maybe we need to get back to such a setup where its not only the state that has the threat of brute force.... just saying.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  17. sanityhasleft

    Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Jewish, etc, etc, etc, this man is doing a good thing and doing more than the rest of you who are on here whining about yourselves. At least you are all alive. This man is reaching out to people who have experienced tragedy similar to his own and giving them support and understanding and he is helping them honor their loved ones who have lost their lives in a senseless and tragic way. He is doing it because he's a good man and not just because he is a Christian. I am not some one who goes to church and I'm still not positive what I believe or don't believe, but I can say that I believe in people like Mr. Zanis and what he does because he believe in humanity and he is a good man. The rest of you need to get off your high horses and stop being so selfish and uncaring and honor people for the good things they do regardless if you believe in their religion or the symbol they chose to honor someone with.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • blondebullsfan13

      I could not have said it better myself. I encourage those who are worried/offended by the crosses to take whatever they feel is more appropriate to the memorial and place it there along side the crosses. No one should be judged for how they grieve regardless of religious faith.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Ann

      Blondbullsfan – put up ANOTHER display? What would you recommend to those of us who prefer no display at all? Would you be angry if we took it down?

      July 26, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Tony

      @sanityhasleft:
      I, for one, have never said anything against WHAT Mr. Zanis is doing, or even WHY. I have no issue with that. My issue is in HOW he has elected to express his "compassion". There are many ways these victims could be memorialized without presumptively using symbols the victims themselves may disagree with . An excellent example of this is the Viet Nam veterans memorial. A simple wall with the victims' names. Perhaps individual "walls", one for each victim. Or any shape other than a distinctively religious icon. The same purpose is served and no presumption is made regarding the victim's religion, and no expression of your own. Of course, Christians, generally, cannot do ANYTHING which does not attempt to express their own beliefs.

      July 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • W247

      Ann- no we would expect you to be respectful of other peoples emotions.

      July 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • catburns

      People go on about what a service this man is doing, I am an athiest and so are the people I love. If something happened. It is not about what makes him feel good, he did what he needed to get though his loss.

      He used a symbol that gives HIM peace. It's not about the fact that it is christain. It is about what honors the person who died! It about what will give the family that is greaving peace.

      Yes! Atheist do need to honor those we love when we pass. If he really honestlly cares about bringing peace to the family that passed. Then he should see what will help honor the person and the family. You are selfish by thinking this man or you matter when other people lost someone they love.

      July 27, 2012 at 5:54 am |
  18. Nietodarwin

    Most people who suffer from nausea, and feel themselves about to vomit, have the courtesy to turn away, leave the room, find a trash can, etc. Many people feel sick when they see somebody getting sick.
    .
    I want to teach these same basic human manners to christians. The next time all of you devout christians feel like displaying your beliefs, talking about your delusions, just think of it this way. Please be polite and go spew elsewhere.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Double R

      @ Nietodarwin

      The funny thing is I see none of the victim's families complaining about what he's doing. No one is taking down the crosses or telling him to stop. In fact for the most part, he is helping encourage these families, using his own tragedy to bring hope. And they are grateful for it. No matter what the cross of Christ represents to them. I don't know if a tragedy like this has ever hit your family that close, but in a situation like that you will take comfort where you can get it, whatever you believe. And this man is going out of his way to do just that. God bless him and all the families.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the bitter D.ou.ch.e

      Guess what darwin...... the 1st amendment secures the right for me and others to do that which you hate. You're a bi.got and you need to learn how to shut your mouth and mind your own.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Take your own advice

      Nietodarwin – why don't you take your own advice and "spew your vomit" into a "trash can" instead of on a message board.

      July 29, 2012 at 7:37 am |
  19. ronvan

    A simple and touching thing to do! Now ANYONE that wants to can come by and honor those that lost their lives and for those injured, and IF they want to say a SILENT prayer. This is NOT the place, (the site) to make speeches or to endorse ANY religious preference.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • ArthurP

      Want to honor these people. Start working for a repeal the 2nd Amendment in the age of smart bombs et al it serves no purpose. Owning guns does not protect you from foreign enemies just ask the Taliban.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • john the guy not the baptist

      So this guy Zanis is a good christian and has built 13,000 crosses, each for a victim of an American tragedy as a tribute. Of those 13,000 victims, can he tell us how many were atheists, agnostics, jews, islamists, buddhists, etc? If the shoe was on the other foot and Zanis was a jew and built 13,000 stars of david and showed up with it at some christians home, what would be the reaction? If all the crosses were built at the request of a christian victims famalies then he is performing a spiritual service for those people, but he should check first to see if it is appropriate.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Crazycamba

      @John the Guy

      I am a Christian, and when my baby died the Jewish doctor that operated on him came to the funeral and said a Jewish prayer. I wasn't offended, I was touched that he was willing to share something sacred to him despite the fact that I was not of his faith. It is ironic that, in my opinion and experience, atheists and agnostics tend to be the least tolerant people. They have nothing but disdain for people of all faith. This man is not imposing his beliefs on anyone, and I doubt very much whether the families would mind if Jewish neighbors put up a star of David (or, for that matter, if muslims put up a crescent) if it were done in a spirit of hope and friendship as this man has done with the cross. You need to stop seeing hatred and conspiracy and recognize sincere expressions of hope and compassion when they are presented to you.

      July 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Maria

      Greg Zanis is my dad. If you knew about my father you should know that he make Jewish stars as well as Muslim moons for victims of those faiths. He does what is asked of him and he honors all faiths.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Awesome Maria. Congratulations. Your father is a very fine man.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Tony

      @Maria:
      So, since your father placed ONLY crosses (no Stars of David, no Muslim crescents), it's safe to conclude that all 12 victims WERE Christian. And, using the logic that the audience in that theater consisted of non-Christians as well, one can also safely conclude that all the non-Christians were saved. Thus I still find it fascinating that God only allowed his followers to die while protecting all the "heathens".

      July 27, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Shut up Tony

      July 27, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Tony

      @Bill Deacon:
      Good response. Captain of your debate team?

      July 27, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  20. Andi

    Wonderful site to see. A place for the victims familes to visit and see the name of their loved ones . Thank you sir. No other religion reaches out so freely as true Christians,.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • Which God??

      So, Andi., what's a 'true chistian? An Ana-Baptist? Catholic? Methodist, different sects of Baptist? Mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses, Luterans, Prysberterian? Which one? Guess what? ALL are made up, by man, for man.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      Reaches Out?????? You reach into pockets, into children's well being. PLEASE QUIT REACHING OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Your "reaching out" affects the rest of us the same way as vomiting on us.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Ann

      I may get slammed again for saying this, but I don't want a cross with my husband's name on it. It means nothing to me. I don't need a place to visit to look at his name. My parents have no marked graves, my husband has no marked grave, and I will not have a marked grave.

      The more I think about this, it really has nothing to do with my religious beliefs or lack thereof. I just get creeped out by the focus on death and marking places of death. Obviously some people find this kind of thing comforting, but your opinion is not universal. Please respect my right to disagree with you on this. I prefer to keep my memories in my heart, not written on some cheesy display.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Lauren

      Ann, that is certainly your prerogative, but I would hope that you wouldn't be offended if someone did put up a cross for your husband. You would be able to take it down, but I would like to think you would appreciate the kind gesture of a stranger who is trying to make your situation better the best way he or she knows how.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Ann, usually we hear that people flock to religion out of fear of death. Have you though much about why you are creeped out about it. You do understand that this is the way the whole parade is going don't you?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Tony

      @Lauren:
      You're response to Ann just shows how ignorant you really are. Ann stated "...I don't want a cross with my husband's name on it." That indicates that she WOULD be offended if someone (ostensibly a complete stranger who does not know either her or her husband) put a cross on her husband's grave.

      I don't know how much more clearly Ann can say she does not want a cross with her husband's name on it, regardless of who puts it there. The indication in her post is that NO she would NOT "appreciate the kind gesture of a stranger" because it WOULD NOT be a kind gesture TO HER (it might be to YOU and the stranger, but not to her). Placing a memorial of any type for your own gratification is not necessarily honoring the deceased or their family. The best way to honor the dead is to use sybols they, themselves, would approve of, not what YOU want or approve of. Doing THIS is a far kinder gesture to the deceased and their family than using icons that make YOU comfortable.

      There is a line from an old movie that best describes this situation. It is my favorite movie line of all time because it works in SOOOOO many situations:

      "I would just like to say that what this committee is doing, IN THEORY, is highly commendable. However, in practice, it SUCKS".
      ~~~Al Pacino as Arthur Kirkland in "...And Justice For All".

      July 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Ann

      Tony, thank you for understanding my point of view. I cannot understand why so many people think that wanting a memorial is an inherently "good" opionion and not wanting one is an inherently "bad" opinion that somehow makes me ungrateful, unkind, and disrespectful. Forcing a "kind gesture" on someone who does not find it helpful is NOT kind. It's insensitive and pushy.

      Bill Deacon – fear of death is irrelevant. We all die someday. Whatever you believe happens afterward has nothing to do with feelings about the event of death itself. But yes, thinking about that day, and the way my husband's broken body looked lying in the ER, with the tubes coming out of him – and how I had to give his daughter the news and walk her in there – and how I held his hand until it went cold – you bet that's creepy. What kind of human being wouldn't be "creeped out" by a memory like that?

      I lost my best friend and the love of my life that day. I don't want something to mark that day, or that spot. I'm trying to put it out of my mind and focus on how lucky I was to have him for the time that I did.

      I respect other people's beliefs as long as they don't try to force them on me. I won't be back to this site – I can't stand thinking about this anymore. Thank you to those of you who offered some support.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.