Priest tries to safeguard beloved cross at WTC site

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NEW YORK (AP) – Days after the terror attack on the World Trade Center, a steel cross emerged from the smoking rubble of ground zero as rescuers searched for the remains of thousands of people.

This was not meant to be a cross when the center was constructed – just intersecting beams in the building’s structure. But after a rescuer discovered it, many workers considered it a godsend amid the chaos on the 16-acre site.

“I thought, God did not abandon us at ground zero,” said the Rev. Brian Jordan, a Franciscan priest who on Sept. 11, 2001, lost his mentor, the Rev. Mychal F. Judge, chaplain of the city’s fire department.

As reconstruction starts on the decimated site, Jordan is trying to ensure no one has the power to remove the cross.

It is dear to him partly because Judge died just feet from the T-Beam – as it’s called in engineering – while helping people. The beloved chaplain is listed as the first victim of the attack, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Last week, Jordan and union leader Edward Malloy, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, met with Kenneth Ringler, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the land. Jordan said he’s “very optimistic that they will provide that agreement.”

Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman characterized the meeting as “very productive” and said, “We expect the issues to be resolved soon.”

Jordan said a likely temporary location for the cross is the side wall of St. Peter’s Church, which faces ground zero. After the attack, Judge was carried into the church and placed before the altar.

The Port Authority had originally planned to store the cross in a hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport to keep it safe during construction. But the plan triggered an uproar, and the agency released a statement saying it recognized “the importance of the crossed beams, which have been a fixture at the World Trade Center site since 9/11.”

Jordan is based at the St. Francis of Assisi Church in midtown Manhattan, which also was Judge’s church.

After Judge’s death, Jordan was at ground zero every day, often saying Mass.

“People asked me, ‘Why did God do this?’ And I said, ‘God didn’t do this. These were the evil actions of men who abuse their free will,”‘ he said.

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