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Remembering 9/11: Fort Wayne’s survivor tree is a symbol of hope and resilience

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, two decades after thousands of lives were lost, remains a symbol of hope, living today, with roots across the country.

Fort Wayne’s survivor tree, young and vibrant, is growing strong, just a few years after it was planted as a seedling at the Law Enforcement Firefighters Memorial of Allen County.

After the 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center, found by first responders underneath the rubble, was a badly damaged, but living, Callery pear tree.

It was moved, replanted, and nursed back to health, until its return to ground zero in 2010.

“It’s known as the Survivor Tree,” Dennis Giere said, “it’s one of the few things that survived the collapse of the two buildings.”

Giere, a FWFD Captain, and treasurer of the memorial, was instrumental in getting offspring of that tree to 21Country.

Three years ago, after a lengthy application process, Giere was among several fire departments in Indiana, who were able to pick up their seedlings from Elkhart.

The young tree received a full escort back to Fort Wayne, where it was planted among hundreds of American flags, in front of a crowd, on September 11, 2018.

Today, you’ll see the tree has grown greatly since then, and is now protected by fence.

Soon, a plaque with information on its significance will be installed.

Giere reflected on 9/11, as he watched it unfold 20 years ago.

“I remember telling my wife, as soon as it was coming down, ‘do you realize how many firemen just died?’” he said.

“Knowing that they were inside those buildings, going up as everybody else was coming down… it was tough to watch,” he continued, “when it was over, to realize how many firefighters they lost that day? It was actually more than what we have on our department today.”

Fort Wayne’s survivor tree, #772, is connected to ground zero, digitally.

At the 9/11 Museum & Memorial, you can look up offspring and saplings of the original Survivor Tree across the world.

The seedling program was launched in 2013.

John Bowne High School and Bartlett Tree Experts partnered to get plants to communities, that will turn them into symbols of hope.

As time marches on, Giere hopes America truly does ‘never forget’.

“If you think about it, kids that are 20 and under, teenagers, weren’t around when it happened, so it’s history to them… ancient history,” he told us, “it’s easy to forget. Hopefully we don’t ever forget what happened.”

The tree still has a lot more growing to do.

“From tragedy, there is life, and this is proof that there was some life that came out of that tragedy, and we have a piece of that here,” he concluded, “it’s just a great thing to remember there was some survivability from that tragedy.”

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out: dbeals@wpta21.com.

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