St. Francis Honored With 9/11 Tree Seedling
On Wednesday, September 11th, as part of the New York Mets annual remembrance of the events of 9/11, the new pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish, Father Thomas Doyle, was presented with a seedling from the Survivor Tree to plant on the grounds of St. Francis.
St. Francis was one of three groups to receive this honor. The other groups were from Boston, due to the marathon bombing and from Arizona, because of the 17 firefighters who died battling wildfires there.
Father Doyle was accompanied in the ceremony behind home plate at Citifield by Bernie Heeran, Harbor Lights owner and retired NYC firefighter, whose son, Charlie, perished in the Twin Towers. Through the Charles Heeran Foundation, Heeran has provided many capital improvements for St. Francis de Sales over the years.
In addition 40 schoolchildren from St. Francis along with their parents and new principal Chris Scharbach, watched from their field level seats, courtesy of the Mets.
The Survivor Tree has a remarkable story. A Callery pear tree, it stood in a concrete planter in the World Trade Center. Somehow it survived the attacks on 9/11, although it was severely burned, a number of its limbs were reduced to stumps and its bark was charred from the intense fire around it. Its struggle for survival became a symbol of the recovery workers’ resiliency. Only eight feet tall after the attack, it has now grown to more than 30 feet tall.
On September 12th, 2011, the first day since 9/11 that public visitors were allowed to set foot on the World Trade Center site, survivors tied blue ribbons with handwritten messages to the Survivors Tree’s branches in a gesture of hope and shared remembrance. Emergency responders from across the nation and around the world often leave badges and pins at the Survivor Tree in tribute to the 9/11 first responders.
Fittingly a seedling from this tree was presented to St. Francis de Sales Parish, as in the months after Hurricane Sandy; it became a recovery center and an inspiration for volunteerism and resiliency.