EL PASO, Texas - Greg Zanis watched the unfolding horrors in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend as those communities became the latest to grapple with the phenomenon of mass shootings.
On Saturday, a gunman killed at least 22 people when he opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso. Hours later, another in Dayton killed nine people in an entertainment district.
From his home in Illinois, Zanis drove two days to El Paso, where he spent several hours on Monday putting crosses together at a makeshift memorial to the shooting victims. The white crosses featured the names of those killed and heart-shaped displays.
He will soon head to Dayton to do much the same thing for more of the fallen, and for their kin.
FILE: Retired carpenter Greg Zanis of Aurora, Illinois, places one of his hand-made crosses for the 12 victims of a mass shooting at a makeshift memorial at the Municipal Center June 02, 2019 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Ge
"I just feel it’s so important to be here for the families," Zanis told Fox News. "Were talking about the gunman, but today it’s going to change, we’re going to start talking about the families and the victims."
"You see I had to look and see what city I'm in," Zanis said, referring to how common major acts of violence have become across the U.S. "No sooner than I take off ... now I have to go to Ohio."
Zanis did a similar tribute in Las Vegas for the victims of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting that left 58 people dead in 2017. He said he expects the crosses in El Paso to be adorned with photos of the victims and signatures from visitors.
"There's going to be flowers and pictures on them. I'm giving them [the victims' families] the only thing they'll have left," he said.
The suspected shooter, Patrick Crusius, 21, is charged with capital murder. Connor Betts, 24, was identified as the deceased shooter in Dayton.
Authorities believe Crusius, of Allen, Texas, posted an anti-immigrant manifesto lamenting the "invasion" of Hispanics, signaling that he possibly targeted Latinos.
El Paso has consistently been rated one of America's safest cities, despite its proximity to Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, which is considered one of the most dangerous.
"It's still the safest city in the country; just because they had one shooting," Zanis said, "that doesn't define El Paso. You watch the unprecedented love you're going to see right here at these memorials.“
Zanis said he has a message to both shooters: " When you have a choice to either follow anger or follow love, I say let's follow love and love each other."