In the wake of last weekend’s massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., a man drove 1,200 miles from his Chicago home to deliver 49 wooden crosses to Orlando Regional Medical Center in honor of each of the mass shooting victims.
“My message today is love your brother, love your neighbor,” Greg Zanis told reporters Thursday as he was unloading them. “Don’t judge them.”
The 65-year-old carpenter used donated lumber to create the three-foot-tall crosses — each bearing a victim’s name and emblazoned with a red heart — in his garage workshop, then made the 17-hour trek from Illinois to central Florida to set up the makeshift memorial.
“I’m doing this for their families,” Zanis told the Tennessean during a stop in Nashville, where he’s originally from. “This individualizes it.”
He also brought markers so mourners could write messages on them.
“Wait until you see these in a week,” he said. “You won’t even see the heart. It’ll be a major focal point.”
Zanis’ crosses have become a familiar sight in communities reeling from tragedy — in 2012, he delivered them to Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., following those mass shootings, and to Boston after the 2013 marathon bombings.
But the tribute in Orlando is Zanis’ biggest memorial to date.
“When you see all these lined up, it will be like ‘Oh my God,’ and they will see the severity of what happened,” Zanis told the paper.
Forty-nine people were killed and 53 others wounded in the June 12 attack at Pulse nightclub — the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
“It is an act of Christian love,” Zanis said. “Even though some of these people might not be Christians, I have never been turned back.”
— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) June 17, 2016
While Zanis wasn’t looking for recognition — according to the Tennessean, his plan was put the crosses out in the middle of the night and “slip out of town before the sun comes up” — his gesture did not go unnoticed.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott was among those showing their appreciation.
“Thank you, Greg,” Scott tweeted.