The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

16 April 2005

Branches to the heavens

If I mention in passing that this neighborhood, like so many others, has a fair number of American elm trees, many people will ask right off: "How are they doing?"

"Not great, but well enough," is what I usually say, and then we remonstrate for a few moments about the miserable blight that so easily fells these magnificent trees.

Some of them, anyway.

The nineteenth of April, 1995, a few minutes past nine. What used to be the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, between NW 4th and NW 5th, is now two parts shell, one part rubble. At this point, nobody knows how many people were lost. And nobody notices the American elm tree across 5th, its bark blackened by the blast, its trunk full of glass shards and splashed with asphalt at its base, its branches weighed down by the flying chunks of metal they caught. Its few remaining leaves, though, are still green.

And they stayed that way through a hot Oklahoma summer. As plans for the National Memorial began to take shape, the tree still stood. People came to the bombing site with cans of water for the tree. The plans were redrawn to include the old elm. Someone no one knows for sure who named it the Survivor Tree.

Came the spring of 1996. A few green leaves, then a few more. Mark Bays, an urban forester from the state Department of Agriculture, came up with a plan to remove the concrete from the area around the tree's base. A tree service reconditioned the soil, pruned damaged limbs, collected seeds. Over the next four years, a support system for the tree was developed.

Nobody knows for sure how long the Survivor Tree will, well, survive. It's been given the best of care, including treatments to repel the blight, and it's an integral part of today's National Memorial, insuring that it won't be forgotten. But this mute witness to the terrible tragedy of the nineteenth of April has brothers and sisters and cousins all over the city, and I believe that the strength of one, by some genetic anomaly, by the grace of God, by something, somehow resides in them all.

Posted at 6:53 PM to City Scene

TrackBack: 8:15 AM, 17 April 2005
» Survivor Tree from Yippee-Ki-Yay!

Charles writes of an elm tree that survived the 1995 blast that felled the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, and which has become adopted by residents and incorporated into the memorial -- and notes that somehow all the city's elms seem...

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TrackBack: 8:27 PM, 18 April 2005
» April 19th from A Small Victory
Robyn: I was a senior about to graduate from the University of Oklahoma on April 19, 1995. I had been up all night studying for an exam, and woke up around 1:30 in the afternoon that day. I later......[read more]