Greek-American Greg Zanis Installs 58 Crosses to Honor Las Vegas Victims

Greg Zanis stands in front of crosses he placed near the city's famous sign Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Las Vegas. The crosses are in honor of those killed when Stephen Craig Paddock broke windows on the Mandalay Bay resort and casino and began firing with a cache of weapons onto a country music festival Sunday. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

LAS VEGAS — An Illinois man known for honoring the victims of mass shootings around the country installed 58 white crosses on the Las Vegas Strip on Thursday.

Greek-American Greg Zanis drove nearly 2,000 miles from the Chicago area to install the crosses on a patch of grass near the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, not far from the site of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival where 58 people were killed on Sunday night, Associated Press says.

Zanis, a 66-year-old retired carpenter, made his first cross 20 years ago when his father-in-law was killed.

“That just changed my life,” Zanis said. “My first cross was for somebody that I loved. And when I put up these crosses here, I always think of my personal loss here too. Always.”

Zanis was born in Spokane, Washington, in 1950 to a Greek Orthodox priest and a Greek immigrant seamstress. His middle name–Steven–is Stavros in Greek, which, he proudly points out, means “cross,” according to the Chicago Reader.

Greg Zanis arranges crosses near the city’s famous sign Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Las Vegas.(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Zanis has become well-known for erecting more than 20,000 of the markers over the past two decades, including after the Columbine and Sandy Hook school shootings and the massacre at an Orlando nightclub.

The crosses, which Zanis said took him two days to cut and paint, feature a red heart.

He plans to keep the tribute up for 40 days before giving the crosses to the families of the victims.

Zanis spent his early childhood in Nashville. His parents spoke Greek at home, and he says he didn’t learn English until he started school, even though he had two older siblings (and two younger ones,) Chicago Reader says.

His father was an assistant priest at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church on the south side, and after the family settled in Geneva he founded Saint Athanasios church in Aurora. “I think my dad drank a lot of church wine,” Zanis says to the Illinois newspaper.

Ebony Saunders, left, hugs Greg Zanis in front of his memorial crosses Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Las Vegas. Saunders had friends at the country music festival when Stephen Craig Paddock broke windows on the Mandalay Bay resort and casino and began firing with a cache of weapons Sunday. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds were injured, but Saunders’ friends were unharmed. Zanis placed 58 crosses near the city’s famous welcome sign in honor of those killed. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
A memorial displaying 58 crosses by Greg Zanis stands at the Welcome To Las Vegas Sign, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Las Vegas. Each cross has the name of a victim killed during the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival this past Sunday. Dozens were killed and hundreds were injured. (Mikayla Whitmore/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
Greg Zanis writes the name of a victim of Sunday’s mass shooting as he places crosses near the city’s famous sign Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Las Vegas. The crosses are in honor of those killed when Stephen Craig Paddock broke windows on the Mandalay Bay resort and casino and began firing with a cache of weapons onto a country music festival Sunday. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds were injured. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Greg Zanis arranges crosses near the city’s famous sign Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Las Vegas. The crosses are in honor of those killed when Stephen Craig Paddock broke windows on the Mandalay Bay resort and casino and began firing with a cache of weapons onto a country music festival Sunday. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds were injured. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
A memorial displaying 58 crosses by Greg Zanis stands at the Welcome To Las Vegas Sign on Thursday, October 5, 2017, In Las Vegas. Each cross has the name of a victim killed during the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival this past Sunday. (Mikayla Whitmore/Las Vegas Sun via AP)