I first came face to face with The Survivor Tree back in 2012, during my first ever visit to New York City. It was surrounded by a stainless steel fence and supports, along with a web of thick ropes, tethering it on all sides. It was obvious that this tree had gone through a lot and still wasn’t able to support its own weight. I suppose nobody knew at that time if it ever would again.
While I stood taking in the tree in front of me, my own world was collapsing. I was in New York alone, trying to escape a life seemingly out of control. I didn’t think I would survive; depressed and adrift, unbeknownst to me I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was ill, but in my mind, I was weak and a total failure.
Long story short, thankfully, I did return back home to the UK. I got worse (much worse) before I got better, but I did get better!
I have since revisited New York City many times. It has almost become an annual pilgrimage for me. I don’t really understand why I am drawn there, but I am, so I go. My most recent trip was in March 2020, only a couple of weeks before the city was closed down due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Whilst there, I returned to the National September 11th Memorial and came face to face with The Survivor Tree again.
At first, I wasn’t able to find it. I did think for a moment that maybe it hadn’t survived. Eight years had passed since I had last seen it and it wasn’t looking too good. But then I noticed that one of the many trees had a large engraved plaque next to it, and there it was. Gone were all the tethering ropes, gone the supports and its broken appearance. In its place was a strong, healthy and pretty good-looking tree. You would have no idea of its traumatic past and I remember thinking, “Wow, what a difference the last eight years have made.” And, suddenly, I realised that me and that tree had a lot in common.