DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Greg Zanis has been doing Crosses for Losses since January of 1996. He says he felt traumatized after seeing his father-in-law dead. Now, he travels the country using his woodworking skills to create memorials for Americans who have lost their lives.
Zanis has created 26,796 memorials so far. Not all of them are for shooting victims. He has also created crosses for victims of natural disasters and vehicle accidents. But he notes that he has made more than 21,000 crosses for victims of gun violence since starting the project in 1996.
However, this week was different according to Zanis. He was in El Paso on Sunday, delivering memorials for more than 20 victims of a mass shooting at a Walmart when he found out about the tragedy in Dayton.
“It’s a lot more stress than i’ve ever dealth with. Having these back to back,” said Zanis.
Zanis then drove more than 1,500 miles from El Paso to Dayton with more memorials in the back of his car to leave in front of the growing memorial for the nine victims.
The wood memorials are not all crosses. He also has memorials in the shape of the Star of David, and ribbons for those who are athiests. He says he tries to read as many obituaries as he can to properly memorialize each person.
On each marker is the person’s name, age, location and date of death. He also includes the number of the memorial so that people can be aware of the incredible number of lives lost.
“It gets them a way to get involved and to express their feelings by coming and maybe leaving a teddy bear, maybe a flower,” said Zanis.
While Zanis was in Dayton Wednesday night, many residents recognized him from his work delivering memorials across the country. Several made it a point to thank him for being in Dayton and Zanis made sure to give each and every one a large, embracing hug.
“My message is real simple, I believe that this is your birthday. This is the day you go to heaven and the people that are here are the ones suffering so that’s why I’m trying to help families,” said Zanis.