Survivor Tree seedling to honor slide victims

OSO — The pear tree was found, burned and scarred but alive, at Ground Zero a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks leveled the World Trade Center in New York City.

Thirteen years later, a seedling from the Survivor Tree is on its way to Oso. It’s meant to honor the 43 people who died in the March 22 mudslide.

The Survivor Tree, a Callery pear, was nursed back to health by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and now stands as part of the National September 11 Memorial &Museum. Each year on Sept. 12, seedlings from the tree are awarded to communities around the country as a symbol of resilience in the face of hardship, according to the museum.

Seedlings are given to “communities that share strength through tragedy,” said Anthony Guido, communications manager at the national 9/11 memorial.

The Survivor Tree seedling program started last year. The first three places to receive trees were: the Far Rockaways in New York City, hit by Superstorm Sandy in 2012; Boston, Massachusetts, the site of the 2013 marathon bombing that killed three people and injured more than 260; and Prescott, Arizona, where 19 hotshot firefighters died in 2013.

Three locations were selected this year, including Oso. Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, received one of this year’s seedlings in honor of victims and survivors of the Fort Hood shootings in 2009 and 2014. Gulfport, Mississippi, also received a tree to remember the people killed and families devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The Callery pear is a hardy, ornamental tree that can grow well in a variety of soils across North America, according to the National Park Service.

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick called the seedling a precious gift. “It is a symbol of our strength of community, our hope, and our resilience,” he said in a county press release. “We will cherish this tree and always be reminded of the friends and support we have across the country.”

The county has not yet received the seedling. The parks department plans to consult with survivors and families impacted by the slide before planting it, parks director Tom Teigen said. The families he’s spoken with so far are touched by the sentiment behind the Survivor Tree, he said.

“It’s moving to think that people over in New York, with everything they went through 13 years ago, are thinking of us so quickly,” Teigen said.

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