Survivor Tree

By Deidra Riggs

September 16, 2018

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:12-13


We hailed a taxi and asked the driver if he’d take us to the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan. He agreed, and off we went. With the windows down, the city speeding past us in fits and starts, the driver darted expertly between the cars, cyclists, and pedestrians on the crowded streets. My husband and I sat together in the back of the taxi, watching the world go by.

A flowering tree.It took twenty minutes and then the driver was letting us know that, to get to the memorial museum, we’d need to cross the street after he dropped us at the corner. We paid and tipped the driver, then slid across the seat and stepped out onto the sidewalk, looking up in time to watch as a passenger airplane flew beside the towering structure of One World Trade Center, “the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex.”

The sky was cloudless and blue, just like the sky on September 11, 2001, when two airplanes crashed into the two towers and thousands of lives were lost.

We made our way across the street and onto the sixteen-acre plot of land that now stands as a memorial to the tragic events of that day. Together, my husband and I stood at the edge of one of the pools of water that fall away forever, each pool surrounded by the names of those who lost their lives that day.

Not far from one of the pools is the Survivor Tree. It’s a small tree that endured the destruction around it and was found, alive, in the midst of the rubble.

A Callery pear tree became known as the “Survivor Tree” after enduring the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. In October 2001, the tree was discovered at Ground Zero severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present. Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth.

Standing before the tree, and reading its story brought us to tears and later, when we talked about the experience we’d had there together, we said these kinds of things to one another: surviving is hard, dying is hard, losing someone you love is almost unbearable, being angry enough to harm someone else is such a heavy sadness, war can’t be the answer, hate will kill us all.

And so, we agreed, even all these years later, it seems the best answer to the brokenness we each face in this world remains the same: Choose love.

Something to do:

Watch this video about the Survivor Tree.

Something to Think About:

What does it mean to survive? How important is survival to you? How invested are you in the survival of your enemies? Why?


Lord, thank you for life, hope, resilience, and rebirth. Show me the areas of my life and the places in my heart that would benefit from more of these gifts. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Ephesians and Work

Deidra Riggs

Writer & Author

Deidra Riggs is a national speaker, an editor, and the founder and host of Jumping Tandem: The Retreat, a bi-annual event for writers, authors, and entrepreneurs. She is a storyteller who creates safe space for navigating...

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