The Story Behind the World Trade Center Cross

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , | Posted On Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Today is the Tenth Anniversary of the horrific events of 9/11. There are many events going on, including the dedication of the World Trade Center Memorial. A significant part of that memorial is what has come to be known as the World Trade Center Cross. It was first discovered in the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers.

Frank Silecchia was the ironworker in New York City who found what he called “America's Healing Cross” at Ground Zero on September 13, 2001. After helping recover three bodies, Silecchia noticed what he called “Calvary.”

When Tower One collapsed on World Trade Center Building 6, it created a unique valley bordered by the mounds of contorted debris. One writer called it a “new-millennium translation of the valley of the shadow of death.” Silecchia was overwhelmed by the dim view of a perfectly symmetrical cross standing upright in the middle of that providential space. He quickly became the curator of the cross and took numerous people there for comfort.

His faith compelled him to remind people that the cross was God's way of saying, “I never left you... I've been here all along.”

When Barbara Walters arrived with two of her family members who had lost a son there, she pointedly asked, “How could you tell me God's here?” Frank led her through the debris to “Calvary.” She then responded, “I need a picture of that.”

Frank wanted the cross saved for the entire world to see. He said, “I want everybody to have it just as Christ wanted everyone to have salvation.” Such a desire was realized when Father Brian Jordan appeared. Frank took him to the cross and Jordan became Silecchia's advocate for preserving the cross. By October 3rd, Jordan's influence with the Mayor's office led to a relocation of the cross, and a ceremony of blessing took place the following day.

The eighteen-foot iron cross remained in a prominent, visible place at Ground Zero until 2006 when it was moved across the street to St. Peter’s Church. When my family visited New York City at Spring Break 2010, we saw the cross at this site. Below is a picture of my wife Susan standing next to, followed by an inscription placed on the cross:

It became "a sign of comfort" for many, but recently there has been controversy about including it in the World Trade Center Memorial by a group of atheists because of it's religious meaning. Some have tried to trivialize this, but I hope we do not allow it to just become a relic. It really is a sign of comfort and hope, as it reminds us that from death and destruction, by the grace of God, comes resurrection and new life.

As Frank Silecchia hoped, “America's Healing Cross,” now known as the World Trade Center Cross, became a permanent fixture in the memorial during July of 2011.

On reflecting back to the first time he actually touched the crossbeams of steel, Frank said, “I felt the power of the cross. Not just THIS cross, but THE cross.” He stated, “Terrorism is the devil's tool; the cross is our tool. And I don't think, I know, we'll win.”

(Incidentally, a replica of this cross was placed at the gravesite of Father Mychal Judge, the New York City Fire Department chaplain who died at the WTC on September 11, 2001).

(Sources:  Be Still, America...I Am God, Amy Bartlett, 2002, p.23-31 and In Other Words, 9/11 Special 10th Anniversary Issue)