Thursday, August 11, 2011

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Earlier in the week we’d heard rumors of bad weather for Thursday. This comes after encountering two hours of precipitation in the mountains of northern New Mexico way back in May and not a drop of rain before or since. We’d also endured days of triple-digit temperatures and sweltering humidity, in New Orleans and Memphis and New York, which may be preferable to the skies opening up but such weather leaves you dripping just the same.

On this August evening in New York City the heavens couldn’t have been a more forgiving shade of blue.

A crowd of eighty or so had gathered on the sidewalk – family and friends, acquaintances and, it could be assumed, a fair few curious individuals who were just happening by. Father Kevin Madigan, soft-spoken Pastor of St. Peter’s Church, stood to the side as he waited his turn to speak and confer his blessing on his parish’s new cross. Next to him, in from Los Angeles, was Lee Spiro, the catalyst behind the evolution of Jon’s cross-country pilgrimage. In front of the cross stood Richard Sheirer, commissioner of the city’s Office of Emergency Management during 9/11 and a quiet force behind the successful culmination of the journey. Next to him, hands resting on his children’s shoulders, was Jon.

Over the rumble and din of the Church Street traffic Jon spoke, eloquently unrehearsed, of what it took to make this cross; of what he meant his cross to represent; of what he hoped people would consider when they looked up at the shining curves and sharp edges. ‘Sacrifice,’ he said, his wife, his mother and his father by his side, the names of three thousand lost loved ones filling the pages of the book in his hands. ‘Sacrifice and love.’

A hearty round of applause laced with tears brought the simple ceremony to an end. Hugs and handshakes and congratulations followed. Folks lined up for pictures in front of the cross. New friends were introduced. Old friends reconvened, in some cases for the first time in over twenty years.

For the moment, on this quintessential New York evening, it seemed the world would indeed be all right.

Gradually the crowd drifted around to the far side of the church, the narrow courtyard burgeoning with sublime celebration as we ate and drank and spoke of all manner of things. Out on Church Street Jon remained for a moment, taking in the evening alone.

He’d be back, for one more day, to shore up the foundation and polish away those weld burns on the sides and attach the Book of Names.

Then he’d leave his cross to the people, the streets, the history of New York.

And he’d get into his truck and drive home.

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The cross is a symbol of hope.
It speaks of life’s journey and to life’s limitless potential.
For the innocent, whose lives were taken from them,
This cross stands as a memorial.
For the courageous, who faced death so others might live,
This cross stands as a tribute.
For all of us, walking the streets today,
This cross reflects who we are
And who we choose to become.