By Stephen McKinley
An Irish American Franciscan chaplain at Ground Zero has made a public request that the piece of steel debris that resembles a Christian cross be kept as part of the final World Trade Center memorial.
Father Brian Jordan has been ministering to firefighters, iron workers and emergency service personnel since Sept. 11, and was shown the cross by
Frank Silecchia, a construction worker, who discovered the T-beam cross on Sept 13 in the rubble of World Trade Center 6. Silecchia reported having a profound religious experience, as did Jordan when he saw the cross.
“I think it should be part of the final memorial,” he told the Echo. “First of all, it is an artifact of Ground Zero, and secondly, it is scared ground, for God’s sake.”
Jordan has written letters to New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevy and New York Gov. George Pataki, who both responded positively, he said, but made no further commitment as yet. He also started a petition on June 2, which is circulating in the metropolitan area.
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“I had a profound religious experience as well,” said Jordan, describing how he saw the cross for the first time. “My heart was pounding, there were tears in my eyes, there was a silence for a time, and then I just started giving out communion to those around me.”
Jordan said that the Christian symbol must be part of the memorial because most of the victims were Christian, “the plurality of which were Catholic, and the majority of the rescue workers were Catholic as well. The Irish took the biggest hit.”
“We didn’t find any artifacts of the Star of David for Jewish people or the Crescent for Muslims as yet,” he said. “Of course, this was not built as a cross,” he continued. “It is a T-beam, found in every one of the buildings destroyed at the World Trade Center site.”
Jordan said that the cross was about 20 feet tall with the cross beam being six to seven feet across.
“It is at the corner of Church and Cortlandt Streets,” he explained. “I was just down there today. A lot of visitors and tourists take pictures of it. They find great comfort looking at it.
Jordan said that he had been at Ground Zero since Sept. 11, and “many people were asking me, ‘Why did God do this?’ and I said, ‘God does not destroy, God creates.’ ”
Jordan said that when he saw the cross for the first time, “there was my answer.”
“This is not just for Christians or Catholics,” Jordan said. “This is a sign of faith. That is why I have called the cross the Healing Cross of America.”