Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Part of Something Special

Frank Silecchia wasn’t about to go back to New Jersey. Not this time.

The day before, stuck in traffic on the Passaic River Bridge, he had watched the towers fall. He had begged the toll booth operator to let him over the Bayonne Bridge. He had fought his way into the city, down to the smoldering rubble - only to be told there was nothing he could do to help. Deferring to the confusion dominating the day, the union worker from Brooklyn, now living across the Hudson River, slowly turned around and began to make his way home.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Representing Humanity

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik has no problem with putting a cross at the soon-to-open September 11th Memorial & Museum. ‘I have great respect for the religious symbols of all people,’ he said, standing in the late morning sun beating down on East 39th Street. But as the Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis, Mr. Potasnik has fielded innumerable calls and inquiries from the Jewish community. What about our symbols? What about those of our faith who died that day? Noting that ground zero is now the most visited site in New York City, he states he ‘would like to see other symbols represented on an equal level.’

Unfortunately no I-beam Star of David was found in the Trade Center wreckage.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dealing (or not) With Differences

Throughout this journey, all across the country, we’ve seen some familiar reactions again and again: sad remembrance; heartfelt gratitude; peace, healing and closure. Today we encountered with the Newark police and fire departments what we found two months ago with the firemen in Santa Fe: they had no idea why we were there. Predictably, upon explanation the mood changes, intensifies, becomes more intimate. ‘At first we just thought we were coming down for some kind of photo op for somebody,’ remarked one of Newark’s finest. ‘Now it all makes sense.’ From there those emotions surface once more, in the kind of familiar moment that could never become redundant.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Uniting & Reuniting

Mona Zaloom stood among her friends, men and women representing over half a dozen different religions. ‘Building Bridges came about soon after 9-11,’ she said with pride-bolstered passion. ‘We all wanted something better for our world, for our community.’ A quiet chorus of agreement floated among our new friends: Father O’Hara, a Catholic priest; Reverend Karlson, a Unitarian minister; Imam Tahir Kukaj from the Albania Islamic Center; Sultan Jain, head of the Hindu temple down on Victory Boulevard; young Nicholas Tamborra, a Greek Orthodox; Chuck the Episcopalian minister; Jerry of the Jewish faith, an active Building Bridges member and an architect whose first job was working on the new Twin Towers; and Mona’s husband, a parishioner in the local Greek Catholic Church. Soon Hesham from the Staten Island Muslim Civic Center would also join the crowd.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Words and Simplicity

‘When at first you are not close enough to know people as individuals, then you get a better look at what people are really about, your perception changes.’ Dr. Ali Chaudry smiled in the midday sun. The London School of Economics-educated Rutgers University Professor and former Bernards Township Mayor had just spent his morning speaking on and answering questions about his faith. Sweating under his suit in the library parking lot, he expounded on the peace that all of us wish for. ‘We condemned the attacks as un-Islamic,’ he said, speaking for his religious community in words that had been used many times before. ‘This was an atrocity committed by people who hijacked Islam.’

Those people, he said sadly and unequivocally, did not speak for him. They were not doing God’s work. They misinterpret the teachings of the Qur'an.

The road to enlightened agreement, he readily admits, is long and hard.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Those Closest To Us

Former Marine Stevens Garcia
John ‘Jack’ O’Marra was having a heck of a morning. The drive from Morristown, New Jersey takes time enough on a regular day; on this clear, temperate morning the trip would take turn after fated turn.
 
 
‘A colleague of mine, Keith, was also scheduled to attend the nine o’clock meeting,’ Jack explained as we stood outside the Resurrection Parish Church in Randolph. ‘He called me and told me he couldn’t make it, but I still had to stop by his office to get some paperwork he had for the meeting.’ There Jack got caught up in a ten-minute conversation with someone in the lobby before walking in and listening to Keith’s boss offering up a lengthy apology for Keith. Then he walked into Keith’s office and received another apology from Keith himself. It was already eight o’clock by the time Jack arrived at his own office in Morristown.
 
 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Celebrating Life, Remembering Loss

On our way back from New York this past Thursday night Jon pulled into the parking lot of Johnny's, Boonton's long-time local watering hole. 'Gotta use the men's room, I'll be right back.' By the time he did get back a dozen and a half firemen were gathered around, wanting to know more about 'this huge hunk of metal' hanging off the back of his pickup.

We, on the other hand, were intrigued as to why eighteen volunteer firefighters would be hanging out in front of the fire station at ten o'clock at night.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Little Light on the Subject

NBC News caught up with us in Manhattan on Friday to bring the story of the Cross to so many more people than we could possibly reach on our own. Thank you Pat Battle for tracking us down - sorry for the mix-up coming out of the Battery Tunnel!

Watch the clip of the Cross in Manhattan here. This report has also been posted in shorter form on MSNBC.com.

After our stop in Manhattan we drove by police escort through Brooklyn and over into Staten Island. On the waterfront facing the south end of Manhattan, at the 9-11 Memorial known as The Postcards, over a hundred firemen, policemen and public officials gathered for a viewing of the Cross. Staten Island, as many know, was hit hard by 9-11, losing over 300 people on that day and in the aftermath.

Tom Wrobleski of Staten Island Live reports on the event here, accompanied by a video clip of Jon with the crowd. Deep gratitude goes out to Staten Island's policemen and firemen who made it all possible.

This Saturday, July 23rd, the I-beam cross will be removed from St. Peter's Church, to be moved back to its original spot on the former World Trade Center site. In the lead-up to this momentous occasion Jon plans to bring his Cross to a few more people; thereafter the Cross will go through its final preparations for the August 11th installation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sorrow, Solace & Strength

When Richard Sheirer heard something was going on at the World Trade Center he placed a call to Building 7. Moments later he was standing inside Tower 1, speaking with two friends he would never see again. Later that day his wife would only know he was okay because she could see the green and white pinstripes of his shirt sleeve on TV. Today the former Commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management paid us a visit to share his thoughts.


'This is going to be so incredibly powerful,' he said, holding a page of the etched stainless steel Book of Names in his hands. 'New York never sleeps, you know? People are going to be looking at this twenty-four-seven.' We thought back to our midnight visit to the Oklahoma City Memorial; as people go there to grieve and to reflect, so too, perhaps, will some here also find solace in dark hours.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Into the Heart of the Ache

Back in May a woman named Sabrina from Staten Island ran a search for 'steel sculpture'. Two months of chaos theory later we find ourselves in an office on Van Duzer Street, in the super-charged company of George Christo*.

'Every fire station in the borough is showing up!' he whooped, clapping his hands together. 'Unless there's a three-alarm fire, Chief said we'll be there.' George jumped back on the phone, fire in his eyes lit by the prospect of an incredible afternoon on the North Shore.

This Friday at three o'clock Jon will be bringing his cross to The Postcards, Staten Island's waterfront memorial to her men and women lost on 9-11. Through the neighborhood, among the firefighting community and all the way up to the office of Borough President James Molinaro we could feel a tangible wave of emotion rising. And this was just in a couple of hours. After weeks of prepping and polishing and waiting the cross will stand once again, for the first time in full view of the altered Manhattan landscape.

BUT FIRST... Thursday (July 14th, tomorrow as this goes online) we will be rolling into Hoboken, New Jersey. For those close by, look for us in the area of the PATH station as 5:00 draws near. Saturday we plan on heading into Brooklyn; we have no set schedule, but as we learned on our way across the country some of the best moments arise when we leave things to Chance. For up-to-the-minute information on the whereabouts of the cross be sure to follow us on twitter. We'd love to see you out there.

* George Christo and Sabrina Hamilton of Door to Door Realty have been instrumental in turning our planned visit to Staten Island into a most promising occasion. Thank you both for your tremendous help, we wish you all the best as you continue to brighten your borough through your honorable, admirable work.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

'Cross Country' - The Journey on Film

Across the miles, from Malibu to Manhattan, Jason Smith and his film crew had the cameras rolling. At gas stations, in parking lots, from the roof of their vehicle as they flew down the highway, the guys behind the cameras captured the thousands of moments that have made up the yet-ongoing experience. Now, for the first time, Jason brings those moments to you.

Cross Country remains a project in the works as Jon prepares for the penultimate leg of the journey. From July 13th he will be bringing his sculpted steel memorial to some of the places most intimately tied, the communities most profoundly affected by the events of September 11th. In what promises to be an emotional event Jon will be in New York City on July 23rd when the original I-beam cross is moved from St. Peter's Church back to ground zero. The crowning moment of the St. Peter 9-11 Cross story unfolds on August 11th, one month before the ten-year anniversary of the attacks, as Jon raises his memorial to those lost, his tribute to those who gave, his symbol of hope for all of us as we continue down our personal and collective paths.

In his documentary, Jason Smith shows us what this means to people all across the country.

Join the journey. Check out the trailer for the film right here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

NY1 News Spotlights Jon Krawczyk

NY1's Bobby Cuza visited Jon in Boonton, New Jersey the other day to get a glimpse of the final behind-the-scenes preparatory work - and brings his story to the world wide web! Check it out below.

Also, Dan Brekke of Indy Metal Etching offers his personal account of our visit to Elkhart, Indiana here. Dan is leading the Book of Names project, a moving and poignant addition to the cross memorializing each of the 2,997 people who were lost on September 11th.
Jon has his sights set on July 14th as a take-off date for the penultimate phase of the journey. For ten days the cross will travel down the eastern seaboard to make a return to Washington, DC before heading north again, possibly reaching as far as Boston but we all know well by now the possibility of the road tossing us a surprise or two.

We plan to be in New York on July 23rd, when the original I-beam cross from the WTC rubble will be moved from St. Peter's Church back to ground zero and the site of the coming September 11th Museum and Memorial. The installation and unveiling of Jon's cross is slated for 6pm on August 11th - keep a close watch on this and get yourself and everyone around you down to St. Peter's on Barclay & Church Streets to witness this very special event and meet the artist behind the journey.

And now... Check out Jon's appearance on NY1 right here!