Man who made 27,000 crosses for shooting victims is retiring

National
Greg Zanis

FILE – In this Aug. 5, 2019, file photo Greg Zanis prepares crosses to place at a makeshift memorial for victims of a mass shooting at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas. The Illinois man who made and delivered more than 27,000 crosses to sites around the U.S., largely to remember victims of gun violence, is stepping away from his ministry but aims to train others to carry it on. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

AURORA, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois man who made more than 27,000 crosses to commemorate victims of mass shootings across the country is retiring.

Greg Zanis came to realize, after 23 years, his Crosses for Losses ministry was beginning to take a personal and financial toll on him, according to The Beacon-News.

“I had a breaking point in El Paso,” he said, referring to the mass shooting outside of a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. “I hadn’t slept for two days, it was 106 degrees and I collapsed from the pressure when I heard there were two more victims of the mass shooting.”

Zanis has set up crosses after the school shootings at Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland. He also placed crosses after the Las Vegas music festival shooting and the Orlando nightclub shooting.

“I leave a piece of my heart behind each time I go,” he said.

In 2016 he made more than 700 crosses that were carried along Michigan Avenue in Chicago to honor each person who had been killed that year.

Earlier this year, Zanis found himself making crosses for his very own hometown of Aurora, Illinois, after a Henry Pratt Co. employee opened fire on his coworkers.

“After Orlando, it never stopped,” Zanis said of the mass shootings. “The country had me on the road for a while every week. I have driven 850,000 miles to put up crosses. I slept in my truck and never had the money to cover what I was doing.”

With donations from time to time, Zanis mainly relied on his own resources to build the crosses.

“At one point last year I was $10,000 in debt and somebody covered that for me,” he said. “Now I am $14,000 in debt.”

Zanis hopes to pass on his ministry to the nonprofit Lutheran Church Charities of Northbrook.

“I feel is is not the end of the ministry. It is the end of me doing it,” he said.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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