Photo credit: Janey Henning
Watch: September 11th Survivor Tree Story. (1 minute 53 seconds)
This summer my family and I visited the September 11th Memorial. It was quiet, stirring, reverent and beautiful, surprisingly not laden with overwhelming sadness. It was instead, tinged with it. The place felt for me, like stages of death acceptance when disbelief, anger and grief move from the how-can-we-go-on wrenching place, to a glimpse of peace.
I’m of course, injecting my own feeling into the footprint memorial of a once mountainous horror.
We inject our own meaning into what we want to feel.
This year I choose to avoid the burning images and the reading of the deceased. I’ve seen. I’ve heard. Hundreds of hours. We all did. I still gasp in my mind at the images in Life of bodies jumping out. That image, perhaps more than any, is seared.
To choose death over burning alive is a “choice” beyond understanding, and so our mind will not rest.
Humans are programmed to understand, to survive.
I hold echos of that day, smudges of ash remain, but now I want the ashes to blow away. I honor and respect the memory of our lost Americans and their surviving families, but re-visiting the horror, at least today, no longer serves me — and so I say good-bye.
September 11th Survivor Tree Story.
In this moving video the Memorial guide escorting widow Alice Martin lovingly refers to the Survivor tree as “her.”
“She’s” a natural living treasure who sprouted new limbs from her injured tree elbows. Survivor produces lovely white flowers every April, a celebration of flourishing, despite. The Memorial team, the guide explains, may propagate saplings. I think that would be fitting.
Baby trees born from their Survivor mom, saplings with no memory or history of September 11th, their roots untouched by the Unimaginable.
Tree of Life. Tree of Perseverance. She is a Survivor.
P.s. I appreciate that I happened to watch the video just after I happen to read the definition of “existentialism” on Wikipedia, which I think I get, and I think I identity with.
It’s been a while since I read The Metamorphosis in English class. The notion of transformation via waking up a roach is an image I want to avoid. A butterfly, a loved dog, fine. I can’t even look at our Florida-famous Palmetto bug (aka big roach) without literally screaming “eek” and going into a fetal ball.
I wonder, do philosophical ideas like existentialism come pre-loaded with head-scratching reactions? I think therefore, I am confused.
I appreciate as well that I saw the Survivor Tree video after I hit the Wiki link about “nihilism,” a concept regularly confused with existentialism. Apparently Nietzsche wrote of both philosophies so the two ideas were erroneously placed together.
I reject Nihilism. “Life has no intrinsic meaning or value.” Blek on that. Life has meaning alright, even if I’m the one placing the meaning.
Survivor Tree knows life has meaning. She breathed long and gasping under burning rubble just so she could come back to tell us.
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