OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — April in the city and the green leaves of an American Elm are just now spreading outward, feeling for the warmth of another Spring.
It’s hard to believe that in 1995 it provided the only shade for a parking lot and that asphalt paved right up to the tree’s trunk.
This is the tree that took the brunt of the Murrah Building Bombing on April 19th which took down much larger, man made structures.
“Elms are very resilient,” says nurseryman Steve Beibrich.
Two decades doesn’t seem like such a long time to someone who grows trees for a living.
Biebrich runs a business in Clinton, Oklahoma, and took a keen interest in saving what would become the Survivor Tree.
“You have to be a survivor if you’re a tree growing in western Oklahoma,” he says.”
Everybody wants to do something to help. Since I’m a tree grower I thought I could help them grow those seedlings.”
Every years since, Biebrich has taken the seeds that fall from the tree each Spring.
The next year there are hundreds of Survivor Saplings ready for planting.
He holds up a slender specimen about 3 feet tall. “Hard to believe,” he says, “this little tree is almost a year old. We started it in May of last year.”
“Hard to believe these were just seeds,” agrees forester Mark Bays, who remembers the successful efforts that saved the Survivor Tree right after the bombing.
He recalls gathering the first saplings the Memorial Foundation provided to bombing survivors, rescue workers, volunteers, then victims of other tragedies around the United States.
Now these young Elms go out to whoever might want one.
Every April 19th anniversary he hands them out to long lines of people who wish to remember by planting one of these young trees.
Bays says, “It’s really inspiring to see how this tree has not only helped us, in Oklahoma, recover from that. It’s been helping all kinds of people from around the country recover from their own problems they might have.”
18 years is nothing in the life of a tree.
It’s a pretty big chunk for people who gather in it’s shade, who receive strength from what it symbolizes, and who continue to spread its offspring every Spring.
Each year the Bombing Memorial Museum offers 2 to 300 saplings for re-planting.
Supplies run out quickly.
For mor information go to www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org