NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Eighty-five seedlings from the “survivor tree” are being transported from a high school in Queens to 28 fire districts on Long Island as the nation prepares to mark the 14th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The Callery Pear tree survived the terrorist attack and continues to stand at the 9/11 memorial in Lower Manhattan.
Ronaldo Vega told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock he will never forget seeing the tree’s green leaves amongst the ashes on that tragic day.
“The tree was absolutely upended, thought to be dead, left for dead,” Vega said.
Then, a search team saw new growth.
“We said we have to try and save this tree. It’s the last living thing that’s going to come out of this site,” said Vega.
Not only did they save the tree, they reproduced it.
For the last four years, the seedlings have been cared for at Flushing’s John Bowne High School, which has an agricultural program.
“What’s been really great for the kids, this will continue — the story of 9/11 will continue for generation to generation,” said the school’s assistant principal, Steven Perry.
The seedlings have now been sent to several Long Island fire districts, where they will be incorporated into “living” 9/11 memorials.
A motorcade ensured safe passage on the Long Island Expressway en route to the Commack Fire Department, where the trees were distributed.
“These trees are now going to sites where firemen were involved in this day,” Perry told 1010 WINS. “I didn’t think it would be as emotional as it was for me today. To see the kids loading the trees, to see the firefighters here… it’s very emotional.”
The Lakeland Fire Department — which lost five of their members in the attacks — received seven of the trees.
“It’s continuing, it’s like something did survive, something good did happen out of that,” said one Lakeland firefighter. “This is a tough week, but this is something they can see and know that it goes on.”
“From that little inkling of a decision made in the middle of the night on a horrible sight to today, it’s leaps and bounds,” said Vega. “Today is amazing.”
The seedlings are about 12 to 14-feet-tall now and will grow to be around 30-feet-tall.
Seedlings have previously been sent to the Department of Justice; Newton, Connecticut after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting; and Boston, Massachusetts following the marathon bombing.