The Survivor Tree

The Survivor Tree.
The Survivor Tree.

A callery pear tree recovered from the rubble at the World Trade Center site in October 2001 was later called the “Survivor Tree”. When the 8-foot (2.4 m)-tall tree was recovered, it was badly burned and had one living branch. The tree had been planted during the 1970s near buildings four and five, in the vicinity of Church Street. Memorial president Joe Daniels described it as “a key element of the memorial plaza’s landscape.”

In November 2001, the tree was moved by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to the Arthur Ross Nursery in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx for care. It was then replanted in the Bronx on November 11, 2001. The tree was not expected to survive, but it showed signs of new growth the following spring. Although the national memorial team planned to include the Survivor Tree, its location was unknown at the time.

Still under the care of the Bronx nursery, the tree was replanted without significant damage in March 2010 after it was uprooted by a storm. After the replanting, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: “Again, we and the tree refused to throw in the towel. We replanted the tree, and it bounced back immediately.”

The Survivor Tree has become a symbol of hope and rebirth; according to Arthur Ross Nursery manager Richie Cabo, “It represents all of us.” In an August 29, 2011 Port Authority press release (after Hurricane Irene), Daniels said: “True to its name, the Survivor Tree is standing tall at the Memorial.” Keating Crown (a survivor of the attacks) said, “It reminds us all of the capacity of the human spirit to persevere.” A Place of Remembrance: Official Book of the National September 11 Memorial describes the tree as “a reminder of the thousands of survivors who persevered after the attacks.”

In December 2010, the tree, then 30 feet (9.1 m) tall, was returned to the World Trade Center site in a ceremony attended by Bloomberg, city officials (including Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Port Authority executive director Chris Ward), survivors and rescue workers. Although the tree is a prominent part of the memorial, six other “survivor trees” have been planted near New York City Hall and the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge. Of these survivor trees, three are callery pears and three are little-leaf lindens.