The Tree That Survived

A group of people stand under the green leaves of the Survivor Tree on a sunny day.
The Survivor Tree on the Memorial plaza. Photo by Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial.

Almost a month after the 9/11 attacks, a survivor was found in the ruins. Extensively damaged with its roots and limbs snapped and its trunk blackened and burned, rescue and recovery workers pulled a Callery pear tree from the rubble. The tree was placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and was nursed back to health. In 2010, the tree was brought to the 9/11 Memorial site. Now known as the Survivor Tree, today the tree stands next to the South Pool as a living reminder of resilience, survival and hope.

In 2013, in partnership with Bartlett Tree Experts and John Bowne High School in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum launched the Survivor Tree Seedling Program. Each year, the 9/11 Memorial gives seedlings from the Survivor Tree to three communities that have endured tragedy in recent years. This year, seedlings were donated to Parkland, Fla., where a gunman killed 17 people in February 2018, including students and staff members, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; to London in memory of those who lost their lives, and on behalf of the bereaved, survivors and all those affected by the tragic Grenfell Tower fire; and to Puerto Rico, after the catastrophic Hurricane Maria left an estimated 2,975 people dead in its wake.

Each of these communities has faced the unimaginable. Past recipient Orlando, Fla., planted their seedling at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in memory of the 49 people killed and 58 injured at Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016. Each recipient has committed to nurture their Survivor Tree seedlings so that one day, they too will stand as beacons of resilience and hope in their community. The seedlings are a reminder that healing is possible with time, hope and unity.

Embodying our nation’s spirit and strength, this one-of-a-kind tree stands out from the rest of the trees on the 9/11 Memorial. In the spring, it’s the first to bud and the last to lose its leaves in the fall.

By 9/11 Memorial Staff


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