What The 9/11 Survivor Tree Can Teach Us About Healing Relationships?
What The 9/11 Survivor Tree Can Teach Us About Healing Relationships?

In early October of 2001, after the world was forever changed by the devastation of September 11th, the last living thing was found under the 3 billion pounds of wreckage of the Twin Towers.  A worker noticed a small branch coming up from the ground of rubble, and on this branch were green leaves.  That person told other workers, and the excitement spread because after 30 days they had found something alive.  In New York, trees don’t normally sprout green leaves in October, so it’s believed that this tree was signaling that it still had life in it.  It was signaling for help.

The rescue workers banded together to carefully excavate the limb and as they dug deeper, they saw more of the tree.  It was torn, scorched, and broken, but there was still fight in it; there was still life. Once they cleared the tree, they moved it to a nursery where it was cared for and after almost 10 years it was healthy and 30’ tall.

A decision was made that it should be returned home to where the Twin Towers once stood.  In December 2010, it made the trip from the nursery back home where it still stands today. Growing strong and reminding us of the resilience and power of the spirit of life.  It is affectionately known as the Survivor Tree.

Although I vividly remember 9/11/01, I only just recently learned about the Survivor Tree.  I watched a documentary with my kids about September 11th, “What happened on September 11th”(link for this doc What Happened On September 11 – HBO Documentary (911tributemuseum.org).  It was during this documentary that I learned about this amazing story.  I was struck by the powerful message. For a month these workers had been sorting through billions of pounds of rubble, faced with death, violence, and destruction daily.  It’s inspiring that this tiny branch with its green leaves could break through the weight of all those hours surrounded by despair.

Then the workers came together to carefully excavate this tree.  I can only imagine how much easier it would have been, when it came to time and labor, to continue as normal and not put in the extra effort to carefully clear the debris and try to save a tree that was dying.  Instead, they honored the little life this tree had left and took the extra steps to try to save it.  There was no guarantee that if they put all this energy and time into the task that the tree would make it, yet they fought for it anyway.  They fought for it because it meant something bigger to them and that was more important than any additional time and effort.

Their effort paid off and it is beautiful because anyone can now go to the Twin Tower memorial to not only see the Survivor Tree but also to touch the bark that was scarred and appreciate all the new growth.  It is a visual representation of how we survive, heal, and thrive. One of the kids in the documentary said this:

“Something that is so beautiful was once something you thought would never survive.  If you went through this horrible tragedy you have to look for the hope in it.  Everything good that came out of it.  Everything good that came out of the rubble.” – Christopher Rullo

As I have shared in previous blogs, there are moments in my marriage that I felt like I was buried under destruction and despair and if there was life left it was only a tiny amount.  These were times where, at that moment, I truly believed it would have been much easier to just let the marriage die.  I knew that to even try to save it would take a ton of effort, time and even money. I can tell you the only reason that we (my husband and I) put in all of what was required was because, just like the workers mentioned above, we believed in something bigger and that was more important than not wanting to put in the additional time and effort.

There are so many parts of the Survivor Tree that resonates with me around self and relational growth.  Too much for one article.  There are beautiful examples of core concepts that all of us need to overcome difficulties in our life and relationships. Such as knowing what is truly important to you, looking for the smallest evidence of life/hope, commitment to the recovering process, and valuing the scars that are left behind.

Over the next weeks I will post follow up articles discussing these core concepts in more detail and steps that you can take to improve how they show up in your life and relationship.

Until then, I would encourage you to check out the documentary “What happened on September 11th“ and more about the 9/11 Survivor Tree.

Links about the Survivor Tree:

The Survivor Tree | National September 11 Memorial & Museum (911memorial.org)

A Survival Story: The Survivor Tree – YouTube

I invite you to think about what resonates with you about this story and if you find any lessons in it that you can apply to your life right now.

To close, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and honor all the victims, their loved ones, and survivors of September 11, 2001.  We will never forget.