Inside the city park near the Albertville Public Library is a special tree.
The 6-foot tall tree grew as a sapling of the only surviving tree at the site of the World Trade Center.
Albertville Firefighter Mark Hand brought the pear tree sapling to Albertville about four years ago as a way to honor those lost on 9-11.
“It means everything to me,” Hand said. “I brought that tree back here in case anyone here lost someone in the 9-11 attacks and can’t get to the memorial. If they are never able to get out there, at least they can get to the tree.”
Friday was the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks when nearly 3,000 people were killed on the ground and inside the four airplanes that crashed. Two planes hit the main towers of New York City’s World Trade Center, one crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth into a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001.
In October 2001, a severely damaged Callery pear tree was discovered at ground zero, 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.
The Survivor Tree Seedling Program was launched on Sept. 11, 2013, in partnership with Bartlett Tree Experts of Stamford, Conn., and John Bowne High School in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens.
“My understanding is the tree was found, dug up and moved to the parks department in New York City,” Hand said.
“It was nursed back to health and the saplings that come from that tree every year are sent to different places across the country.”
Saplings have been planted in Las Vegas where a gunman killed 58 people and injured 400 more in the Route 91 Harvest Festival in October 2017; in Pittsburgh, Penn., where 11 people were killed and six injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue; and in Parkland Fla., where a gunman killed 17 people in February 2018, including students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Other trees have been planted in England, Puerto Rico and Greece to commemorate deaths of people in fires, hurricanes and terrorist bombings.
The tree in Albertville currently does not have any special marker or plaque. Hand said a medallion had been on the tree, secured with a zip tie, but was stolen.
He is in the process of securing a new marker of some sort.
“If anyone has the original marker or knows where it is, please bring it to the fire department,” Hand pleaded.
“We want to see it put permanently in place.”