White Crosses Draw Mourners in Las Vegas
Tina Lund came to support a friend who came to represent the family. But she cared for the marker like a victim’s mother, gently wrapping blue ribbon around the cross and hanging a collage of photos. Brian Fraser’s cross stands in a stunning row of 59 white crosses.
Each cross has a name written in black marker, one for every victim of Sunday night’s mass shooting, the deadliest in modern U.S. history.
The crosses have been erected in a graceful, curved line behind the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign at the southern end of the famed Las Vegas Strip.
Among the 22,000 in attendance, Fraser had traveled from his home in California, where he lived with his family, to attend the country-western concert. Lund sought out the crosses Friday because the victim’s family “couldn’t be here, so we are.”
Lund and her friend were approached by Bob Gamble, a chaplain from Billy Graham ministries.
The three huddled together, Gamble’s hands on their shoulders, and they prayed.
Gamble said he volunteered to fly to Las Vegas to give faith support to the victims’ families.
“We call it a ministry of presence. All we can do is give them comfort,” he said.
The line of mourners winds around those who lost family and friends Sunday as they cradle each other, stooping down to grieve or to decorate the cross, as if it were a grave marker.
People file past each individual cross, touching the wood, or pausing and reading the names. They give a generous space to family members.
Kelly Gresh stops at the base of Denise Cohen’s cross.
The two women had planned to attend their 40th high school reunion next weekend in San Ramon, California.
Gresh uses her cellphone to take a video of the site to send to the California High School’s webpage, narrating where she is and what she sees around Cohen’s marker. She does the same for another, younger classmate, Stacee Etcheber, who graduated from the same high school.
Both women happened to be in Las Vegas to attend the concert.
“It’s so scary the amount of people that travel through here, that something like this could happen,” Gresh said.
Las Vegas, typically a glitzy gambling and tourist destination, is still trying to find its way after such a massive attack.
The towering Mandalay Bay Resort looms on the skyline behind the crosses and is a 15-minute drive away. It was from a room on the 32nd floor that 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, with 23 guns, sprayed bullets into the crowd attending the open-air concert across the street.
Paddock shot himself before police entered the room.
There is no cross for Paddock.
Of those for the victims, each has a red heart on the front. For Jewish victims, the Star of David is prominently attached. Candles, flowers, stuffed animals and more are left behind at the base of the crosses. Voices are hushed. In one day, it has become sacred ground.
Retired carpenter Greg Zanis built the crosses and drove all night from Illinois to deliver them Thursday.
Zanis started a GoFundMe page for support.
He has done this before. In fact, his daughter Maria posted that he’s been building and erecting cross memorials for 22 years, mainly when the United States suffers a mass murder, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation describes as a shooting involving four or more people.
Zanis has delivered crosses for many shootings, including last year’s Pulse Night Club attack in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people, the 1999 Columbine High School mass murders that killed 13, and the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre that took the lives of 20 children and six adults.
He typically leaves the crosses in the cities, where officials then pass them on to family members.