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The cross installed on a pedestal at Ground Zero c. 2003

The World Trade Center cross, also known as the Ground Zero cross, is a group of steel beams found amidst the debris of the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 attacks which resembles the proportions of a Christian cross.



The World Trade Center was built using prefabricated parts which were bolted or welded together at the site.[1] This process dramatically reduced construction time and costs. Using this process, t-beams and other types of cross beams were created and used in each of the World Trade Center buildings.[2] When One World Trade Center collapsed, it sent debris down on to 6 World Trade Center, and gutted the interior of World Trade Center 6. In the midst the WTC6 debris was this intact cross beam, which its discoverer believes came from One World Trade Center.[3][4]


Similar column trees as seen within WTC 5

Following the attacks, a massive operation was launched to clear the site and attempt to find any survivors amongst the rubble. On September 13 one of the workers at the site, Frank Silecchia discovered a 20 feet (6.1 m)[5] cross of two steel beams amongst the debris of 6 World Trade Center.[6] Those with access to the site used the cross as a shrine of sorts, leaving messages on it or praying before it.[7][8]

After a few weeks within the cleanup site the cross was an impediment to nearby work, so Silecchia and others working on the project received an expedited approval from the office of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to erect it on a pedestal on a portion of the former plaza on Church Street near Liberty. It was moved by crane on October 3 and installed on October 4,[9][10] where it continued as a shrine and tourist attraction.[2] The cross has remained during reconstruction, but in the 2004 and 2005 filings of its site plan, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey indicated that "additional remnants" of the original World Trade Center might require removal and storage during construction of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.[11]

Cultural response

Some saw the crossed metal as a Christian cross and felt its survival was symbolic. Fr. Brian Jordan OFM, a Roman Catholic Franciscan priest, spoke over it and declared it to be a "symbol of hope... [a] symbol of faith... [a] symbol of healing".[7] The cross had a profound effect on those with a personal connection to the disaster. One minister at the site says that when a family of a man who died in the attacks came to the cross shrine and left personal effects there, "It was as if the cross took in the grief and loss. I never felt Jesus more."[12]

A replica has been installed at the gravesite of Father Mychal Judge, a New York Fire Department chaplain who was killed in the collapse of WTC 1 on September 11.[13] Other surviving crossbeams were salvaged from the rubble; one was given to a Far Rockaway, New York chapter of the Knights of Columbus in 2004.[14] Another replica cross was fashioned by ironworkers from Trade Center steel and installed at Graymoor, the Upper West Side headquarters of the Society of the Atonement, a religious order of Franciscan friars.[15]

The nearby St. Paul's Chapel, which survived the destruction and was a refuge for survivors and site laborers, sells various replicas of the cross including lapel pins and rosaries.[16] The cross even inspired laborers on "The Pile" to get tattoos.[17]

The potential use of the cross in the World Trade Center Memorial has been controversial. Many groups such as families of the victims want the cross to be included,[18] while other organizations, notably American Atheists and the Coalition for Jewish Concerns,[19] disagree.

Relocation efforts

Fr. Jordan has been trying to preserve the cross since April 2006. St. Peter's Church, which faces the World Trade Center site, was proposed as a temporary spot for relocation during construction of the new PATH station and office tower at the site.[20] The cross was eventually moved to St. Peter's on October 5, 2006 and as of the date of this writing sits on the Church Street side of the building, between Barclay and Vesey Streets. It bears a plaque which reads "The Cross at Ground Zero - Founded September 13, 2001; Blessed October 4, 2001; Temporarily Relocated October 15, 2006. Will return to WTC Museum, a sign of comfort for all." [21]

See also


  1. ^ Leslie E. Robertson Associates - Historical project page from engineering firm that designed the center. Accessed April 5, 2006.
  2. ^ a b McKinley, Stephen (August 28-September 03, 2002). "Priest Wants WTC Cross Memorial Preserved". Gotham Gazette/Irish Echo. 
  3. ^ "Frank Silecchia, a construction worker, and Father Brian Jordan, a Franciscan priest, discuss the metal cross that they found at ground zero and the faith it offers". CBS News, The Early Show (interview). 2001, October 5. 
  4. ^ ""Cross Purposes"". Snopes. 8 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  5. ^ Careless, Sue (2002-09-11), For ten arduous months Frank Silecchia toiled in hell at Ground Zero, Bible Network News,, retrieved 2008-11-07 . Article on Frank Silecchia, one year later.
  6. ^ Dreher, Rod (2001-09-23), "Holy Symbols Of Hope Amid The Rubble", NY Post (Library of Congress September 11 Web Archive): p27,, retrieved 2008-11-07 
  7. ^ a b WTC Cross on Snopes by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson updated September 11, 2003. Retrieved April 3, 2006.
  8. ^ Collins, Glenn (March 23, 2005). "Port Authority Spells Out Efforts to Save Trade Center Remnants". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-04-06. 
  9. ^ Mysteries for September 11 News, copyright 2001-2003. Retrieved April 3, 2006.
  10. ^ Letter to Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Accessed April 5, 2006.
  11. ^ PATH restoration plan, final approval received July 2005.
  12. ^ Lutheran Disaster Response New York Accessed April 6, 2006.
  13. ^ 9/11 victims remembered at Graymoor from Irish Echo, at Mychal Judge memorial site. Accessed April 5, 2006.
  14. ^ K of C to Dedicate WTC Cross to 9/11 victims for the Rockawave on September 10, 2004. Retrieved April 3, 2006.
  15. ^ Mary Ann Poust (September, 2003). "Second anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks to be marked with church bells and prayer". Catholic New York. Retrieved 2006-04-06. 
  16. ^ St. Paul's Chapel website
  17. ^ "Tattoo unites WTC's laborers; cross a reminder "of all that hell"". From the Laborers Network. Retrieved 2006-04-05. 
  18. ^ Celeste Katz (October 5, 2002). "Families want 9/11 cross in memorial". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2006-04-06. 
  19. ^ Levy, Julia (2003, May 14). "WTC Cross: Sign From God or Debris?". The New York Sun. 
  20. ^ "Priest tries to safeguard cross at World Trade Center Site". Associated Press. 2006-04-14. 
  21. ^ Steel-beam cross moved from WTC site from the AP by CNN. Retrieved October 5th, 2006.

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