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BY JOHN BAYLES | On Saturday morning work at the World Trade Center site came to a brief halt. Welders stopped welding, cement workers stopped pouring cement and bricklayers stopped laying bricks. Construction workers directed their attention to a single piece of steel.
It wasn’t a piece of steel they had been working on — not a piece of steel that will comprise the framework of One W.T.C., which is quickly rising above their heads. Instead, it was a piece of steel many of them have come to hold sacred following the morning of Sept.11, 2001.
The 17-foot-tall steel fragment, known as the World Trade Center Cross, was part of the remnants of 6 W.T.C. Construction worker Frank Silecchia discovered it days after the attacks, in the area where the building fell. The fragment’s resemblance to a cross was immediately evident. In turn it became a symbol of hope and resilience for the workers, survivors and the victims’ family members who visited the site. On Saturday morning, the cross was moved to the W.T.C. site and a crane lowered it into what will eventually be the National September 11th Museum, set to open to the public in 2012.
There was an official blessing of the cross earlier Saturday morning at Zuccotti Park. Father Brian Jordan, who ministered to construction workers and first responders and blessed human remains during the weeks following the attack, was flanked by former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and first responders. Father Jordan held mass and offered communion at the base of the cross every Sunday for months after 9/11.
“After a 10-year journey of faith, the World Trade Center Cross has finally found its home,” said Father Jordan.
The cross’ “journey” took it from the original site where it was found, to a more central site that the workers and survivors could visit in the days and months following the attack. The cross was then moved to the intersection of Church and Cortlandt Streets in February of 2002 and then to St. Peter’s Church between Vesey and Barclay in October of 2006. It remained there, serving as a tourist destination and a place for residents to stop and recollect until last Saturday.
“The World Trade Center Cross is an important part of our commitment to bring back the authentic physical reminders that tell the history of 9/11 in a way nothing else could,” said 9/11 Memorial and Museum President Joe Daniels.
T.J. Gilmartin, a shop steward for the United Cementsmiths was at Ground Zero on the morning of the attack and was at Zuccotti Park on Saturday morning. Gilmartin remembered Silecchia, his friend, finding the fragment days after 9/11.
“When Frank found it, the word went around,” said Gilmartin. “The Port Authority was going to take it and put it at JFK [airport] in one of the hangars. But Father Jordan said, ‘No, we need something to symbolize rising from the ashes.’”
Gilmartin echoed Father Jordan.
“It was something that pointed to the future and let us believe that those planes didn’t destroy everything.”