November 20, 2014 by
Photo: Gary Reyes / Bay Area News Group
The morning after the spectacular fire, the Rev. Firmo Mantovani and bleary-eyed members of his parish were stunned by the wondrous sight inside the burned out shell of Holy Cross Catholic Church.“I can’t believe what I’m seeing,” said Sam Arlotta, a parishioner for all of his 86 years.“Milagro!” added Cecilia Calderon, using the Spanish word for miracle. “God loves us very much.”Standing on Jackson Street in the city’s Northside neighborhood, they gazed through a fence and the open front doors at the heavy, 10-foot-tall, Italian-made gilded wooden crucifix that somehow survived the four-alarm fire Sunday afternoon. Like Arlotta and Calderon, Mantovani figured the crucifix and everything else inside the century-old church had been incinerated.That’s important as a sign that the church should be rebuilt,” Mantovani said. “But a miracle? That is a question of semantics. It is a miracle, but it was also a real possibility.”San Jose fire Battalion Chief Richard Toledo couldn’t explain it either.“I wish I could tell you,” he said. “It was open to all of the elements — the fire and smoke and the collapsing roof, and yet it’s there in almost perfect shape.”What started the blaze is unknown, but fire officials suspect it ignited near the organ. Though fire department spokesman Capt. Reggie Williams said the church was salvageable, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of San Jose said that no decision had been made yet on whether it would be rebuilt.To remove the crucifix, Toledo called in a crew trained to use ropes in rescue situations. As the pastor and parishioners watched from the street, a half dozen firefighters carefully probed the charred beams holding up the cross. The day before, about 20 firefighters had battled the blaze from inside before making a hasty retreat.Monday, a lone firefighter lowered a special rope from a tall fire engine ladder into the gaping hole above the altar and crucifix. Firefighters below carefully fastened the rope around the arms of the image of Jesus nailed to a cross and guided the crucifix upward as the engine pulled.