Survivor Tree – New York, New York - Atlas Obscura

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Survivor Tree

The last living thing to come out of the rubble after 9/11 is now a symbol of hope and resilience. 


In October 2001, recovery workers sifting through the rubble of the World Trade Center uncovered the remains of a Callery pear tree, twisted and broken, its roots snapped and branches burnt. The workers nonetheless decided to pull the tree from ground zero, beginning its remarkable recovery.

The chances of the tree recovering were slim indeed when it was placed into the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, who then sent it to the Arthur Ross Nursery in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx for specialist care. It was replanted in the Bronx on November 11, 2001, but was not expected to survive.

For several years, the tree underwent a careful process of healing and rehabilitation. Then, in 2010, the Callery pear tree was returned to ground zero where it was replanted as part of the National September 11 Memorial. It was christened the Survivor Tree, a symbol of endurance, resilience, and hope.

Since its return to ground zero, the tree has flourished. It is often the first plant to bloom in the Memorial plaza each year, its blossoms signaling the arrival of spring with an annual display of growth and rebirth. At the same time, the Survivor Tree bears the scars of its troubled past: Its smooth new branches reach upwards from its gnarled stump, a stark reminder of the tree’s dark history and its hopeful present.

On September 11, 2013, the Survivor Tree seedling program was launched. Since then, the 9/11 Memorial has given seedlings from the Survivor Tree to three communities each year. These communities had all experienced recent tragedies, and the seedlings were given as a sign of solidarity and hope. Tree scientists have so far propagated some 450 descendants of the original tree, and recipients of the saplings have included Boston, San Bernardino, Orlando, and Paris, France.

Know Before You Go

The 9/11 Memorial Plaza is open to the public every day of the week. Check their official website for the hours of operation.

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