Among the few survivors from the attacks on the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, one has been chosen to live the remainder of its life at the new site built to memorialize that event.
Last year, in a special issue of Law Enforcement Technology(Officer.com’s print sister publication), I choose a tree as a symbol of the enduring growth for the editor’s column reflecting on 10 years since the harrowing attack. That was a coincidence; though I had heard the story of the Callery pear tree, my brain had not made the connection between the story and the use of the American Redwood to represent strength, presence and resilience. Contrary to its much junior size in comparison with the girth of a typical Redwood, the Callery pear that stood outside the World Trade Center buildings survived the collapse of the buildings around it, crushed under debris from the fallen Tower as well as suffering major damage from the ensuing fire.
A tree that bore witness to evil and death and fire and loss will now stand proud near its original home and bear white blossoms each spring; a color, like the dove, associated with peace.
The new building, One World Trade Center or the "Freedom Tower," isn’t scheduled to be complete until next year, but the Survivor Tree is already on site, re-planted in December 2010. And it has already seen a blossom back there this spring. Though not denoted with a plaque or other marking, the reportedly 30-foot Callery pear has nearly quadrupled in height since it was found amid the fire and wreckage layered on Ground Zero 11 years ago.
A tree is a good emblem for perseverance, strength and dependability. While a Redwood is an obvious choice for a symbol of the United States in its years after 9/11 for its American origin and noble mass, maybe I inadvertently picked the wrong tree last year. The Redwoods do their part, but closer to the heart of the attacks and our country's rebuilding is more of an ordinary tree; one that went through the consequences of terror and evil itself, as did our nation and the thousands of people who lost family members in the strike including 72 law enforcement officers who died that day. The white of the spring blossoms represent the future hope of peace, enduring spirit and the continuation of life after a great and terrible loss. The Survivor Tree, as do we, lives on to tell the story.