NEW YORK (AP) - A cross-shaped steel beam that survived the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack to become a symbol of hope amid the ruins was moved Thursday from ground zero to a nearby church, accompanied by a procession of victims' families, clergy and construction workers.
The 2-ton, 20-foot-high cross was placed on a flatbed truck for the three-block trip to its new home, St. Peter's Church, which had served as a sanctuary for rescue workers searching for human remains from the Sept. 11 attack.
"This piece of steel meant more to many people than any piece of steel ever," said Richard Sheirer, head of the city Office of Emergency Management five years ago. "It goes beyond any religion."
Ironworkers sang "God Bless America" as hundreds of people walked behind the cross to its temporary home facing ground zero outside the 18th-century church, the city's oldest Roman Catholic parish.
"This cross is a sign of consolation and inspiration to workers who served at ground zero for the 10 months of recovery," said the Rev. Brian Jordan, a Franciscan priest who had blessed the T-beam days after it was pulled from the wreckage. "Some interpret it as a cross. Others see it as an artifact that has historical and architectural importance, a reminder that is also a sign of closure."
Five years ago, the church, rattled but intact after the attack, also became a temporary morgue where the Rev. Mychal Judge, the Fire Department of New York chaplain who became the first official trade center fatality, was among those brought inside.
Jordan, in a brown Franciscan robe cinched around the waist with a white cord, led the procession just as he led the effort to preserve the T-beam discovered in the ruins of 6 World Trade Center by construction worker Frank Silecchia on Sept. 13, 2001.
The worker showed it to Jordan, asking what the priest saw.
"I said, `Frank, I believe that is a cross,'" said Jordan, Judge's friend and fellow Franciscan. "We are all anxious for some type of God's presence."
Jane Pollicino, who lost her husband, Steve, in the attack, was among those walking in the procession.
"This cross is a sign," said the mother of two, whose spouse worked as a bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald.
Workers excavated the beam and installed it at the site. Each night, illuminated, it shone over the smoking debris as they kept digging. The cross was moved to Church and Cortland streets, its location until Thursday, on Feb. 14, 2002.
Some, like a group of atheists, "wanted to get rid of it. Others argued it was a conflict of church and state, since the site is owned by a government agency," Jordan said. "But we fought and prevailed."
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the site's owner, had planned months ago to store the cross in a hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, but family members and ministers objected.
At the spot where it stood for four years, just south of a transit hub, land is being excavated to make way for three office towers. The cross is to stay at the church during the reconstruction.
The World Trade Center Memorial Foundation has said it plans to include the cross as part of its memorial or inside the Sept. 11 museum.
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