He started with a few cops and firefighters, who came for small sticker tattoos of American flags or names of the fallen. Then they came in droves, asking for something else.
“We started doing the cross,” Dutro says.
He figures he etched at least a thousand crosses into various bodies. He did 10 or 12 a day, seven days a week. While Dutrow inked their limbs, he listened to stories of where they were, who they lost. He was their therapist, their confessor. “They wanted to make sure they never forget,” he says. “It was a physical manifestation of the pain that they went through. Indelible.”
Eventually, the demand for cross tattoos ebbed. But it took a while. Throughout the long recovery effort, the cross stood at Ground Zero, symbol for the forlorn. For 10 months, Father Brian conducted services there every Sunday. He performed a windy, freezing midnight Christmas Mass, with the Host flying off the plate. He performed a Mother’s Day Mass, a Father’s Day Mass.
He never counted how many of his congregants were Catholic, or even Christian.
“I don’t know,” he says. “I never asked. And I never will.”
The cross stood throughout the even longer period of bureaucratic infighting over how to rebuild. Finally, in 2006, construction began, and to make way for it, the cross was moved temporarily to St. Peter’s Church. It stayed there until this summer, when it was taken back to Ground Zero for permanent installation.
Once again, Father Brian blessed it. By this time, it had acquired a steel plaque, affixed by a welder. “The Cross at Ground Zero — founded September 13, 2001; Blessed October 4, 2001; Temporarily relocated October 15, 2006; Will return to WTC Museum, a sign of comfort for all.”