Saturday, September 10, 2011

Healing Through Horticulture

Plants have so many roles in our lives, especially for those of us who garden. This week in particular, as we remember 9/11, I'm thinking about how plants have the power to heal as well as symbolize growth and survival. There's something about planting a seed that makes everything just a tiny bit better.  The Brooklyn Botanical Garden will even be waiving their admission charge tomorrow, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, acknowledging this fact.

The Survivor Tree
I heard the story of The Survivor Tree for the first time this week. This was the only living tree found, stripped of it’s branches but still alive, on Ground Zero. It’s a Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana), a hardy but sometimes fragile variety often used in city gardens because of its compact, upright growth. The tree was removed, and nurtured in Van Cortlant Park in the Bronx, where it also pulled through several damaging storms.

Below is a photo of the memorial garden at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Volunteers planted 25,000 daffodil bulbs in plots that were shaped like the Twin Towers.  Although the garden is no longer there, this is such a perfect example of ways that a community can come together and heal through gardening.

Stacey's Garden
Stacey McGowan died on 9/11 and was a student at Valley Cottage Elementary when she was a little girl.  "Stacey's Garden" was planted in our school courtyard as a memorial to her. I didn't know Stacey, but I thought of her whenever I watered it. Her garden is the first thing that people see when they come into the school courtyard. It's lovingly tended by her mother and always has something in bloom.

A Hero from Nyack
Another member of our community who died on 9/11 is Welles Crowther.  He was known as the "Man in the Red Bandana." He was an equities trader and volunteer firefighter, only 24 years old, who helped a dozen people get out of the towers safely. Here is a link to an ESPN video about him. 

A couple of years ago, my daughter was asked to bring in an article about a 9/11 hero. She said half the class brought in articles about Welles. I will be wearing a red bandana tomorrow in his memory.


garden girl said...

This post got me a bit teary-eyed. As profound an impact as 9/11 had on the country and the world, I can only imagine what it must have been like for New Yorkers and residents of surrounding states who were personally impacted by the tragedy through the loss of family and community members, friends, and co-workers. My heart goes out to everyone who suffered those losses.

Anonymous said...

That is a powerful video, and thank you for the blog entry in memory.

jocelyn said...

Wonderful post. Nature is a powerful and inspiring force.

catmint said...

It was very inspiring the way New Yorkers supported each other in the early grim days after sept 11. Your post is a lovely reminder about the power of gardens.

Wendy McDonagh-Valentine said...

Hi there. I knew both Welles and Stacey. I graduated with Stacey's brother, Chris. She was a few years older than me but Nyack was a small school and we all knew each other. I knew Welles from the time he was a little boy. He was such a sweet guy. Always had a smile on his face. He comes from a wonderful family. His sister, Honor, used to babysit for us when we just had our oldest son, Connor. Welles' dad, Jefferson, played Santa the first Christmas after my husband passed away which was just a month before. He rode up on one of Nyack's firetrucks and brought his dog with him and all the firefighters gave my boys toys. My husband had been a member of Empire Hook & Ladder which was the same firehouse that Welles belonged to. So, so sad. Ten years have passed since 9/11 and yet it's as if it was yesterday.

I heard about that beautiful tree when I was watching the news the other night. To hear it's thriving is such an incredible symbol of hope. Thanks for your beautiful post. God bless. : )

~ Wendy

JGH said...

Thanks, everyone, and Wendy I appreciate your comment about your relationships with them. Although I don't know either family, I feel a personal connection to both just through living in the same community. I hope they are feeling some sense of comfort as we mark this day.

bookworm said...

Awesome post. I grew up in NYC and 13 people who went to my high school died on 9/11. You inspired me to post something only vaguely related to 9/11 and it will appear on my blog tomorrow. Thank you for sharing this. I knew about the Survivor Tree but not the other items you posted.