What The Survivor Tree Taught Me

I recently visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. I expected to be humbled and sad. I was. How could I not cry at the two gaping holes where those magnificent towers had stood, vaulting high into the sky? Years ago, when I had a summer job in New York, I used to take the PATH train from New Jersey and exit at the World Trade Center. My fellow commuters and I were herded onto a long row of steep escalators and spit out into the electric energy of lower Manhattan. And now here was that same spot. Concave. Somber. Empty. As I ran my fingers over the names of people who died I felt as if gravity itself had suddenly increased.

On the way out, I almost passed by The Survivor Tree. It was just a bare tree, not labeled or standing out in any way. But a small crowd was gathered around it, so I stopped. And that’s when I learned the story of the Survivor Tree, the one tree that survived 9/11. Crushed by the two fallen towers, it had burned to an 8 foot stump. Ron Vega, director of construction for the Memorial, took the tree to a nursery, where, despite being uprooted by 100-mile-per-hour gale force winds in a storm, it was lovingly brought back to health and replanted at the Memorial site in 2010. It now stands over 35 feet tall. IMG_1018

Vega was so grateful to be a part of this tree’s survival and replanting that he said, “To give this tree a chance to be part of this Memorial -come on- it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Just like all of us, but especially people who were injured or who lost loved ones that day, the Survivor Tree will always be scarred and damaged from 9/11 and be a little lopsided. But if the Survivor Tree can be resilient after being crushed by two towers and then torn out of the ground by a hurricane, so can we. Remember the lesson of the Survivor Tree the next time you are facing something difficult in your life.

If you haven’t gone to see the Memorial, it’s definitely worth visiting. Just remember to reserve your free tickets beforehand.

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