Wooden crosses that represent Chicago gun violence victims touring the country

FOX 32 NEWS - The white crosses containing the names, dates and photos of the victims of Chicago’s gun violence are hitting the road. They’ll be seen all over the country, starting at the scene of a mass shooting in DeKalb.

Greg Zanis repaired his "crosses for losses" before driving them from his home in Aurora to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Students at NIU helped unload the 128 crosses in preparation for a campus-wide vigil on Friday. Zanis hopes the names and photos of Chicago's gun victims this year will remind students of what many have left behind in the city.

“Everybody was loved here, they were a baby, mom held them, and I’m just saying, at some point their lives changed and they went a different direction,” Zanis said.

Until Sunday, the crosses were on a vacant lot in Englewood. Critics said they sent too negative a message about the city's violence. Several campus groups invited Zanis to display them at NIU, where he had erected five crosses in 2009, commemorating students killed in mass shooting.

“We had a terrible school shooting over here, at Cole Hall, and this is a place where my wife went to schoolm” Zanis said.

“The biggest message I hope this sends is really that people know about the amount of lives that we lose daily to senseless violence,” said Brandon Robinson of Black Male Initiative.
Zanis says NIU is the first stop on a nationwide tour, taking these crosses to the scenes of mass shootings all over the country.

“I’ve been asked to go to 22 tour spots right now and it's hard to decide which ones,” Zanis said.

Students seeing the string of crosses for the first time were moved by the display.

“Even if you know what's going on and that there's a lot of gun violence in Chicago, seeing all these signs, lined up, with the dates, names, faces, it's more visceral than  reading about it,” said student Emily Stephen.

Zanis says by Sunday, the crosses will be back in Englewood for the weekly vigil there.

Zanis keeps a close eye on the homicide numbers in Chicago, so that his crosses accurately reflect the number of shooting deaths here.