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The Journal Gazette

Friday, September 07, 2018 1:00 am

9/11 sapling heads to city for planting

Manhattan tree to decorate police, firefighter memorial


If you go

What: Sept. 11, 2001, Survivor Tree planting and remembrance

When: About 5 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Law Enforcement/Firefighters Memorial, 1001 N. Wells St.

Admission: Free

A tree that grows in Manhattan will have one of its special descendants grace a memorial to public safety workers in Fort Wayne. 

On Tuesday, a delegation of officials involved with Fort Wayne’s Law Enforcement/Firefighters Memorial plan to plant a Callery pear tree sapling at the memorial’s site along North Wells Street.

The sapling is a descendant of a badly damaged tree rescued from the site of New York City’s Twin Towers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Jerry Vandeveer said Thursday.

Former owner of The Wood Shack, Vandeveer and his late wife, Linda Vandeveer, were instrumental in getting the memorial to fallen local police and firefighters built.

“Just the idea of having a piece of 9/11, to have a living descendant of 9/11, is quite a thing,” he said.

Fort Wayne was one of 16 Indiana cities chosen to receive a tree this year, Vandeveer said. He said the New York City Parks Department nursed the tree salvaged from the rubble back to health. 

The tree was replanted at the Ground Zero national memorial in 2010 as the “Survivor Tree” and has flourished since, according to the national memorial’s website.

Saplings from it have been distributed around the nation and world, including to the Concord Township Fire Department in Elkhart County.

Concord helped Fort Wayne obtain a sapling after Capt. Denny Giere of Fire Station 14 learned of the effort and applied, Vandeveer said.

The city memorial met qualifications for a sapling because a 9/11 remembrance is held there annually and the memorial honors public safety workers, he said.

The delegation will pick up the sapling and attend a ceremony at the Concord Fire Station on Tuesday. A local police escort will guide the group through the county and city to the memorial for the planting, expected to begin about 5 p.m.

Although dignitaries have been invited, Vandeveer said, anyone who wants to offer a remembrance or say a few words to honor those who died or survived will be able to participate.

Participants also will be invited to plant 350 small flags around the monument.

Vandeveer said the sapling will be planted between the separate areas dedicated to police and firefighters.

Plans are to add a plaque explaining the story and a decorative iron fence to protect the tree, he said. 

Callery pear trees, also known as Bradford pears, are decried by some as an invasive species because they spread easily through seeds eaten by birds.

But they also have showy white blossoms in early spring and are tough as nails when it comes to resisting disease and weather.

Perhaps that’s why the sapling’s parent tree survived, Vandeveer said.

“This will be the only time we will receive a physical piece of this tragedy where so many lives were lost. We especially hope children will attend with their parents and can ask questions to learn about this tragedy in our history,” he said.

“It’s like having a living link.”