Some people walk past the tree in suburban New Jersey and see ... well, a tree. Others walk past it and see what they say is a miracle -- an image of the Virgin Mary in the trunk, which has become the centerpiece of a shrine rising on the hot pavement.
"It's amazing," Dile Marku, part of the throng surrounding the tree, told WABC, the local ABC affiliate, on Friday, after news of the wondrous piece of wood spread through the city of West New York. "I cannot explain because that's God's work, but I know how I feel and what I've seen people feeling here for three days. It's amazing. It is amazing."
The mayor of West New York, a city of about 49,000 people across the Hudson River from Midtown Manhattan, said he had received calls from around the world from people wanting to come and see the "miracle" for themselves. Mayor Felix Roque said the attention had led to a shrine so large that he wants to make it permanent, in hopes of drawing visitors to an avenue whose fast-food shops, nail salons and cellphone stores don't scream "vacation spot."
Dozens of people have been stopping at the tree, snapping pictures of the section of bark with a scar that they say perfectly mirrors the shape of images of the Virgin Mary. Police have set up metal barricades to protect the tree and the crowd, which has left a rising mound of flowers, candles, flags and religious icons.