Past a long stretch of steamy blacktop, near fields where ROTC cadets and soccer players practice their respective drills, lays a pastoral oasis, tucked behind John Bowne High School in Flushing, Queens. Within the one-and-a-half acre holding of orchard and field crops, greenhouses, a large animal barn, a poultry house and an exotic animal laboratory, more than 20 giggling high school students were loading 100 Survivor Tree seedlings onto a truck bound for Suffolk County, Long Island.
“Lift with your legs, not your back!” a teacher admonished the teenagers. “I’m not much older than you and I have two herniated discs.”
The students were participants in John Bowne High School’s esteemed agricultural program, and the Survivor Tree seedlings had been growing in a nursery under the program’s care for six years. As the students loaded the seedlings into the truck, representatives from approximately twenty-five New York fire departments were travelling across the state to the Miller Place Fire Department on Long Island, where they would meet the truck and bring back seedling trees to their respective stations.
Bartlett Tree Experts, which has donated its resources to support the Survivor Tree seedling program since 2013, was on site to facilitate transport. David McMaster, vice president and division manager at Bartlett, was struck by the positive energy and enthusiasm displayed by the students, who had all volunteered to help during this last week of freedom before the start of the school year.
“From a career perspective, this has been the most exciting thing that I’ve been involved in,” said McMaster. “The owner of the company, Robert Bartlett, has told me that the two most significant things that he’s done in his time with the company is the 9/11 Memorial trees and working for the Queen of England. To put it into perspective, that’s how significant we view this project.”
In a tribute befitting a dignitary or VIP, the truck carrying the Survivor Tree seedlings was accompanied by police escort from the high school to the Miller Place Fire Department.
Steve Perry, assistant principal and director of the agricultural program at John Bowne High School, shared McMaster’s enthusiasm for this collaboration. “The experience I’ve had meeting the folks who are the recipients of these trees and the memorials that have been constructed has been overwhelming,” said Perry. “I feel such an honor to be a part of this.”
You can learn more about the Survivor Tree and seedling program here.
By Anne Dellinger, Digital Communications Manager, 9/11 Memorial