Representative Michael G. Grimm (R,C-NY) will introduce legislation this week entitled the 9/11 Memorial Cross National Monument Establishment Act of 2011, which will establish the 9/11 Memorial Cross located at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City as a national monument. This cross has long been seen as a symbol of hope and freedom in the aftermath of 9/11; however, it has recently become a subject of attack by the “American Atheists” group who filed a lawsuit against the inclusion of the cross in the museum. Rep. Grimm’s legislation preserves the 9/11 cross as a national symbol, securing its place in the museum.
“This cross was a symbol of hope and freedom at a time when New Yorkers were coping with loss and destruction in the aftermath of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil,” said Grimm. “I find it reprehensible that this group would disgrace the beliefs of millions of people in an effort to garner a little media attention for their cause. By establishing the 9/11 Memorial Cross as a national monument, we ensure this symbol of freedom continues to stand for all those we lost and those whose faith remains to this day.”
The cross was first discovered during search and recovery efforts. When One World Trade Center collapsed, it sent debris down on to 6 World Trade Center, and gutted the interior of the building. In the midst the debris was an intact cross beam, which its discoverer believes came from One World Trade Center. The cross was first encountered by construction worker Frank Silecchia in the vicinity of where 6 World Trade Center had stood.
Throughout the recovery efforts, the 17-foot-tall cross became an icon of hope and comfort in the wake of the attacks. After a few weeks, an expedited approval from the office of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was granted to erect it on a pedestal on a portion of the former plaza near St. Peter’s Church. The 9/11 Memorial Cross was moved by crane on October 3, 2001 and installed on October 4, 2001 where it continued as a shrine and tourist attraction.
On July 23, 2011 the cross was transported onto the WTC site and lowered into its permanent setting inside the museum, which will open to the public in 2012. Shortly after on July 27, 2011 an atheist group identified as “American Atheists” filed a lawsuit claiming the inclusion of the cross-shaped steel beams promotes Christianity over all other religions on public property and diminishes the civil rights of non-Christians.
While the cross may have been the first religious symbol moved into the exhibition due to its size, it is not the only religious symbol that will be on display. Along with the cross, the exhibit will include a Star of David cut from WTC steel and a Bible fused to a piece of steel that was found during recovery efforts. The cross, however, was the only symbol singled out by the American Atheists. Rep. Grimm’s legislation is in response to the actions of the American Atheists in order to preserve the 9/11 Memorial Cross’s place as a national symbol in the 9/11 Memorial Museum.