Survivor trees are locally revered as symbols of hope. These trees support communities’ recovery by embodying hope and strength. The Callery pear in New York City and the Oklahoma City American Elm tree are two famous trees cherished for reflecting the courage and spirit of the affected communities.
Trees around the world have survived incredible feats. Before the bombing in 1995, a poorly managed/maintained American Elm tree provided sparse amounts of shade from a small parking lot of downtown Oklahoma City. This tree spent its days surrounded by concrete and cars. After the national tragedy (1995) destroyed buildings and lives, this 80-year-old tree was the only thing standing amidst explosions and fire.
Community members, survivors, rescue workers, and the community came together to save and honor the tree, making the preservation of Survivor Tree an integral part of the mission statement of the Memorial site. This elm now thrives as it stands guard at the national memorial, protecting the memory of those who lost their lives. The inscription in Oklahoma City, “the spirit of this city, and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.”
American Grove committee member, Mark Bays, is the Oklahoma Urban Forestry Coordinator who made a special connection with this tree. Mark made it his mission to protect the Survivor Tree during and after the construction of the National Memorial. Bays worked to see that the tree had a proper aeration and watering system throughout this construction period.
Ground crew and facilities management at the memorial regularly collect the Survivor tree’s seeds for the distribution of hundreds of samplings every year. This tree now grows throughout the US. Survivor trees are uniquely cherished within and beyond their communities.