THE TREE THAT WOULD NOT BE BROKEN

THE 9-11 SURVIVOR TREE

A Callery pear tree became known as the "Survivor Tree" after enduring the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. In October 2001, the tree was discovered at Ground Zero severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present. Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth.




It was the last living thing rescued from the ruins of 9/11. A dozen years later, one mythical pear tree is finally home, and branching out from Ground Zero in mystical ways.
For a few years, the 9/11 Survivor Tree was lost.
Well, not really lost. Richie Cabo, horticulturalist for the Parks Department, knew exactly where it was. Since shortly after 9/11/01, he had been taking loving care of the callery pear tree at a nursery in the Bronx. But Ron Vega of the National September 11 Memorial & Musuem had no idea where the tree was. And he wanted to bring it home.
Vega had heard rumors of the Survivor Tree's existence from co-workers. Its story had taken on almost mythic proportions: the last living thing to come out of the rubble of Ground Zero, a charred stump that, to an untrained eye, looked dead. Apparently, someone from some governmental agency was taking care of the tree, although no one knew who or where. Eventually, after a lot of asking around, Vega tracked down the Survivor Tree and set in motion its second act.

It feels really good to see young people of all colors and backgrounds in New York City working together to help with growing survivor seedlings.

My husband’s former roommate, an immigrant from Panama, was one of the first responders on September 11. He died several months after 9/11 of respiratory failure. He was an EMS supervisor who stayed on the scene working around the clock for days. My girlfriend’s brother, who is Puerto Rican, was a Port Authority police officer who died, as one of the first on the scene. 
Over the years, I’ve talked with spouses, children, parents, and friends in New York who lost someone as a result of that day. They represent the mosaic of race, class, ethnicity, and religion that is the New York metropolitan area. Not one of them has blamed an entire religion. Not one of them has expressed a desire to deport immigrants, or close our borders. I’m sure there are people who feel that way. I just haven’t met them. 
Me … I just want to plant trees, and sow seeds of sanity. The answer to hatred is love, fertilized by education and empathy. 
We have a choice: Be like those survivor trees and spread our branches to shelter all comers … or wither away and die, poisoned by vitriol.

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