15-foot handmade cross planted in Uvalde to help community heal

UVALDE – A 15-foot metal cross has a new home in Uvalde after coming from a city west of Fort Worth with the help of a motorcade.

Just before its arrival, a group helping to place it into the ground gathered to say a prayer.

“Father God, thank you for this day. Thank you for bringing us all together, on this day that’s going to be filled with emotions.”

Moments later, a string of vehicles and motorcycles with Patriot Guard Riders escorted the truck pulling a trailer with the cross hitched on behind it.

The location of the cross is at a bail bonds shop owned by one of the Robb Elementary School victim’s aunts.

“We’re going to have to get a bunch of hands on so it don’t get squirrelly. Until this one gets tight,” cross maker Michael Collins said.

Collins helped direct the team lifting the cross off of the trailer and into the dug hole on the ground. They used a piece of machinery to help.

Once in the hole, the team held things steady as welders from Uvalde secured it into the ground.

As that happened, Collins was cleaning off the trailer when he found a cut-out heart and called out to the woman who owned the shop.

“Brenda, Brenda. This fell out of the inside of it. Do you want it?” he said.

She nodded, holding the heart close to her chest.

As the cement truck came in, Collins went to talk with some of the crowd that gathered. In that crowd was Amerie Jo Garza’s father, Alfred Garza. He didn’t know the cross was being placed there.

Garza was given a wooden carving of a cross.

“Any other family, they need to come. We have a gift for them,” Collins said.

Collins placed a floral wreath at the bottom of the cross, admiring the work he and the team did to get it there.

“I don’t know if it was my son telling me to build it or God. It was like someone hit me in the head. I got goosebumps, my hair stood up on my neck and I started crying. And I said, ‘I got to build them a cross,’” he explained.

“He called me the next day. Dad said, ‘I’m gonna build a cross.’ He said, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do it but I’m going to build a cross,’” Michael Collins II added as he stood next to his father and namesake.

After a seven-hour drive, welders and cement pouring, the 15-by-12-foot cross has a permanent home, flying beside the doves.

“I’m very proud of it, for the way it looks. Other than that, other than that it’s going to be a nightmare to me,” Collins said standing next to his handiwork.

He calls this cross his third baby. His first was for Brady, his son, who died in a car accident at 26 years old.

“He’d dot you in the eye before you knew what happened, but he had a kind soul,” Collins said with a knowing laugh.

On the cross, there’s a slot that Collins said is for the letters to Heaven. It’s placed there so all of the children can write to the friends they lost, knowing their words will stay safe and untouched.

“I hope in a month they’re having to shove ‘em in there because it’s so full,” Collins said.

In a town that’s turned into a living memorial, growing and changing by the day, Collins believes this cross, made by a father mourning his son, will make an impact.

“By making this cross and living and being by my baby’s cross every day, that’s what I knew these people needed,” Collins said.

Collins started a GoFundMe to get the supplies to make the cross. All that’s left over will go toward the victims’ families.

Once the day was done, the group held hands around the cross they planted and bowed their heads and prayed yet again.

“We just pray that we can continue to share our love that you’ve given us in our hearts to all of these families and people that are hurting. We thank you for the safe travels, for all of the blessings you give us. It’s in Jesus’ name that I pray…amen.”

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