It stands at the highest point on the landscape of the Oklahoma City National Memorial – an American Elm – our Survivor Tree.
Foresters agree it was likely planted sometime around 1920. Photos show the tree in a family’s backyard in 1947. That home gives way to commercial development. Somehow, that Elm is selected as the only tree to remain when a parking lot is paved around it. Through the years it withstands spring storms, sweltering summers and winter ice. It receives little care expect from Mother Nature.
On April 19, 1995 – less than 150 feet from Ground Zero – the tree withstands the full force of a 4,000-pound explosion and firestorm of debris. Many of its leaves and branches are blow off, its charred remains embedded with pieces of metal, glass and plastic. Still, it survives.
It becomes a symbol of resilience, and its protection is mandated as part of the Memorial Mission Statement. Arborists from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry help care for the tree now. Each year, seeds are harvested. When ready, those seedlings are given to family members, survivors, first-reponders and visitors to the Memorial.
Survivor Tree seedlings grow in yards and playgrounds across the state and country. Even the White House lawn enjoys shade from a tree that began as a seedling from the Survivor Tree. To learn where other seedlings are planted, or to add your own seedling location, please visit Places of Remembrance.