As visitors walk beneath the shady boughs of the more than 400 swamp white oak trees that cover the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, one beckons with its branches not simply for its shade, but also for its story.
A single Callery pear tree known as the Survivor Tree was found buried in debris at the World Trade Center nearly a month after 9/11. Though burned and badly damaged, the tree still showed signs of life and was taken to a nursery to be tended to and cared for. In 2010, the tree returned to the World Trade Center site, finding its forever home between the two reflecting pools on the 9/11 Memorial plaza. While it still bears scars of its past trauma, the signs of new growth and healing today serve as a living reminder of resilience, survival, and rebirth.
This impactful story has drawn thousands of visitors to the site and inspired hundreds to participate in meaningful hands-on activities offered during the summer months as part of the Education department’s Art Cart* program. The Art Cart offers free, self-guided activities to help children and their caregivers discover the stories and symbolism behind the Memorial and rebuilt World Trade Center site. In an activity connected to the Survivor Tree, visitors learn its story and use its symbolism as inspiration to decorate colorful paper leaves with messages of hope and resilience. After decorating their leaf, participants can either take it home as a reminder of their visit or leave it as a tribute at the tree for other visitors to admire.
On days when the Art Cart is present, visitors can be seen surrounding the Survivor Tree to regard the dozens of colorful and thoughtful tributes left behind, photographing the ones that move them or feeling inspired to create a leaf of their own. As fall kicks into high gear, we invite you to participate in this tangible act of remembrance by creating your own Survivor Tree leaf at home. Think about what the story of the Survivor Tree means to you and share it with us on social media using the hashtag #911MuseumEd and #NeverForget.
For more inspirational stories, view our 2022 Anniversary in the Schools webinar.
By Meredith Ketchmark, Assistant Manager of Youth & Family Programs
* The 9/11 Memorial Art Cart is made possible in partnership with the New York Life Foundation.