Survivor Tree

ALPA Pilots Remember

By Capt. William Glen Lykins (Continental)

For my family and I, it all hit home when we approached the names of the lost crewmembers for both the United and American flights [at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York]. Frankly it was all I could do to contain myself from losing it. I read each name to myself, some names had pictures taped next to them, others had personal notes and flowers tucked into the letters of their loved one’s names. One had a note that simply said Mom. I glanced at my wife as she turned away, too much to take.

As we were getting ready to leave, my son and I walked up to a . . . well . . . frankly, haggard tree in the mist of beautiful, well-manicured trees. There were pictures of Firemen and Policemen on all the branches. As we stood looking at the pictures an older fireman approached. He explained that tree was found in the rubble of the trade centers, crushed and burned but still alive. Barely.

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He went on to say that the Parks Department nursed it back to health and it finally began to bloom again. But in March 2010 a pair of nor’easter storms brought high winds and rain that uprooted the tree, almost killing it a second time. Once again, it was nursed back to health and now stands in the Memorial as a living symbol of hope and recovery after tremendous adversity.

They call it the Survivor Tree.

Much like I felt when I left Ground Zero the first time, I feel forever changed, this time for the better. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend you visit Ground Zero. One of the few places on earth where, when you get there you feel the weight of tragedy yet when you leave you are left with an uplifting feeling of hope.

This article was originally published in the September 2011 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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