Mason Foreman Joe Alonso has been in charge of the stone mason team since 1990, and has worked as a mason at the Cathedral since 1985. Since the earthquake, he has been in demand both on-site and nationally as an expert in his little-known field.
“It’s heartbreaking to me, because I know what went into building the Cathedral. I look at a piece of stone, I can tell you what that stone went through, from design through carving and being laid in place by the stonemason,” Alonso says. “This is a handmade building.
“The day of the earthquake, I was working with my colleague Andy Uhl on the granite steps of the center portal of the west front. We were planning to move up to a scaffold on the north side of the nave, but I wanted to finish the work on the steps first.
“Had we been on the scaffold that day, we would have been seriously injured or worse. The top deck of that scaffold was littered with fist-sized chunks of limestone that had fallen nearly 200 feet from the central tower’s pinnacles.”
Perhaps very few people alive today—if any—are as intimately familiar with the Cathedral’s architecture and details as Alonso. He and his team face a challenging restoration process but will work with strength and a committed passion for the Cathedral and all it stands for as a sacred setting.