We have received much help and support from our friends in Oklahoma City — the survivors of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Together, we participate in various commemorative and community projects.
A tree grown from a cutting of the Oklahoma City Survivor Tree was replanted in the Living Memorial Grove, located across the street from City Hall, next to five trees that were previously planted in the World Trade Center Plaza.
As part of the 5th Anniversary Commemoration, the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network, with the help of the NYC Parks Department, replanted a tree grown from a cutting of the Oklahoma City Survivor Tree.
The OKC Survivors’ Tree is an American elm that offered shade in the parking lot of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, prior to the bombing on April 19, 1995. The tree was badly damaged in the explosion, but survived and is now the centerpiece for the Survivor Circle in the Oklahoma City Memorial. The Survivor Tree is a symbol of human resiliency and a tribute to renewal and rebirth. We hope to solidify, with this planting, the deep bond that has developed between the people of Oklahoma City and New York – sister cities in grief, but also in the strength needed to survive.
The replanting ceremony was preceded by an interfaith gathering. Speakers representing the wisdom of the many faith traditions in New York City described what the planting ceremony means to them. Most traditions embrace tree plantings as symbolic of life and rebirth. And we hope the public expression of this common human thread will continue to provide both healing and uniting.
"This tree, a gift from the People of Oklahoma City, is the offspring of the Survivor Tree which remained standing in the wake of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building on April 19, 1995. It is planted here among the trees that survived the September 11, 2001 attacks upon the World Trade Center to symbolize our common bond, resiliency and renewal. May it forever represent hope and strength to endure. World Trade Center Survivors' Network, September 10, 2006"
By Brendan Chellis
I'm a member of the WTC Survivors Network and have been actively involved almost since its inception. Like everyone in this organization, I lived through a horrible event the morning of September 11, 2001. I was deeply affected by the things I saw and it really took a toll on me. Getting involved with the WTCSN was a lifesaver as far as I’m concerned. I met people who had very similar experiences and by sharing what we went through, it helped me to deal with it and helped me to put those painful memories in a place where I could carry on with my life like a normal, functioning human being.
Back in 2003, the Network did an exchange with some survivors, family members and rescue workers from Oklahoma City. Personally I was amazed by how much we have in common with them, and we immediately made a connection with them. Although New York City and Oklahoma City are two completely different places, because of what we all went through, we had an incredible bond. Once the Oklahoma City folks started talking, I felt immediately they could identify with what we were going through. They understood our pain like nobody else could.
As time went on, I became close friends with several of them. When they found out I'm a avid runner, they told me about the Memorial Marathon/Half-Marathon they hold every April in honor of everybody who was lost in the bombing at the Murrah Building. Although I had never run anything close to 26 miles, they asked if I would like to run the marathon. To make a long story short, I tried to train for it but a couple of months before the race I realized I would not be ready. So I settled for the half-marathon instead.
I ran it in 2005 and it was really one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced. It seems like everybody in Oklahoma City comes out to cheer you on. You realize how deeply affected this city was by that horrible attack and how much they appreciate you coming to pay your respects in this manner. And for me, it was my way of thanking the people of Oklahoma City for everything they did for us. Not just from the WTC Survivors Network, but from the entire city of New York.
I have run the half-marathon twice now and I am now training for the race this year on Sunday, April 29. I'm really looking forward to running it again. Like our Tunnel to the Towers Race, it's not really a time to mourn but more an affirmation of life. We mourn those we lost at other memorial events but by running this race, we are out there to celebrate their lives. And we are there to show that even out of the most horrible events, something good can result.