Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2018

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Mass shooting memorial crosses moved from Strip to museum after ceremony


Steve Marcus

Kristy-Marie Hoff, left, and Shawna Bartlett, survivors of the Route 91 mass shooting, embrace before a cross-moving ceremony by the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign on Las Vegas Boulevard South Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017.

Mourners made their way to the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign on the Strip over the past month to pay their respects to the 58 who were killed at Route 91 Harvest Festival massacre. A cross memorial at the iconic sign area became the unofficial place of to honor victims.

The crosses were packed up this morning — along with all mementos draped on each cross — and transported to the Clark County Museum in Henderson, where they’ll be on display at the amphitheater stage until Dec. 17.

A ceremony honored the victims and cross maker, Greg Zanis.

“We have heavy hearts today as we remember those 58 (who died),” said Jim Gibson, Clark County commissioner, before a moment of silence where the names of those who died on Oct. 1 were read. “Our hearts are heavy also for the countless hundred who were injured. Whose lives will be forever changed.”

Zanis, a 66-year-old retired carpenter from Illinois, made the almost 2,000-mile trek to Las Vegas four days after the mass shooting to set up the crosses, which drew large crowds immediately following their placing.

Zanis has placed thousands of crosses at various sites, including the Columbine Sandy Hook and Orlando nightclub shooting sites. The county declared today as “Greg Zanis Day” throughout the county and on the Strip.

Zanis was elated about the honor, but said he doesn’t do these acts looking for recognition.

“I’m baffled. I’m just a dirty, old carpenter,” Zanis said. “Yesterday I was cleaning out backups that were in the basement and we’re here today and I’m wearing a suit and being honored. I never thought this would happen.”

Zanis brought new crosses to give to families of the victims to take with them, as the original ones were packed up on their way to their new home.

“They’re happy to get the duplicate. It’s still their cross,” he said. “We talk about the crosses, but it’s the heart is really the magnet here, because it says so much.”

Las Vegans Sam Massaro, who still wears his general admission wristband from the festival, said he understands why the crosses are being moved. But he wished they could’ve stayed a little longer to reach a number significant with the victims.

“I wish they would have waited 58 days to honor the victims,” Massaro said. “This is a tough spot for them to be at anyway. The sign is such a tourist attraction… where people smile and take pictures. I get it, that’s what the sign is really about.”

In addition to the crosses, other 1 October tributes have been collected by County staff from medians and public rights of way on the Las Vegas Strip. The artifacts will be catalogued into the Clark County Museum collection for preservation and future display, a process that will take some time.

“We’re looking at what could be a year’s worth of work,” said Mark Hall-Patton, Clark County museums administrator. “When a piece comes into the museum you describe it, you catalogue it, you number it you make sure all the information you know about that piece will always be able to be found. For one cross we’re talking weeks (of work) for one person to describe every individual piece associate with the cross.”

The crosses will also become part of the permanent County collection and will be available for viewing in the future.

Hours for Clark County Museum, which is located at 1830 S. Boulder Highway, are daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children. Those interested in donating 1 October artifacts to the museum should email the museum at [email protected]