ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- It is now becoming more and more common to see wooden crosses every time there is a mass shooting in America.
A handful of the crosses were in Annapolis two weeks after five people were killed in the Capital Gazette newsroom.
Four crosses, hearts, and a star.
“It’s devastating. It’s heartbreaking,” Tina Smith said. “It’s just heartbreaking."
It seemed like just about everyone in Annapolis knew at least one of the five victims killed at the local newspaper.
“I knew Gerald from my serving on the editorial board,” Trudy McFall told WUSA9.
The victims were family, friends, neighbors, and the people who told their stories.
“It meant everything to us and still does,” Smith recalled Capital Gazette reporters telling stories about her daughter.
People left all kinds of things at this memorial: flowers, flags, and even gum.
However, the wooden symbols placed in the grass were the focus.
“They told me there is somebody who goes around the country every time there’s a mass shooting and creates crosses,” McFall recalled.
She was talking about Greg Zanis, the retired carpenter from Illinois, who built crosses and a star in Maryland.
This is something Zanis has done for more than 20 years.
“I can’t hardly even name how many I’ve been at,” he said.
Zanis goes to mass shootings all over the county to deliver crosses he built to remember victims.
“Parkland, Fla. where 17 students were gunned down,” Zanis gave an example. “Sutherland, Texas was a church of twenty-six. Santa Fe is a high school of ten.”
Zanis said traveling to Maryland may have been one of his most emotional trips.
“Hundreds and hundreds of stories have been written by people just like this,” he said. “I don’t want to start crying here but I don’t want one of them gunned down because they’re trying to deliver what’s going on. I mean my gosh.”
Zanis told WUSA9 he is getting tired of building the countless number of white crosses, but said the impact he is having on grieving communities makes his hard work worth it.
“That gives me goosebumps. You see, it’s people like that that make my daughter keep fighting,” Smith said.
“I think it’s just wonderful that somebody would do that,” McFall concluded. “It’s just terrible that we needed to do it.”
Zanis puts a serial number on each cross that he makes so that he can track each victim and hopefully connect families with support.