Humanity is Resilient Just Like the Survivor Tree

Humanity is Resilient

A Callery pear tree stands in Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood. Unlike the dozens of swamp white oaks later planted at the site, the Survivor Tree withstood the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. Charred and broken but showing signs of life when discovered among the wreckage, the tree was rehabilitated and later replanted.

We visited the 9/11 Memorial site for the first time last month, nearly 18 years after the attacks that shook our nation. Amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City — the scores of people shouting and shuffling about, the honking of horns, the bright lights and flashing neon signs — there’s still an air of reverence about the site.

Despite all it went through, the Survivor Tree stands as a living symbol of resilience, survival and rebirth. Since it was replanted in 2010, the tree has bloomed every spring. Visitors leave small tokens on and around the railing that protects it — bracelets, notes, ribbons, tiny paper birds. As a way to spread the spirit of hope, every year the 9/11 Memorial gives seedlings to communities that have endured tragedies of their own.

After our trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about resilience. Like the Survivor Tree, we’re also resilient, especially when it comes to our bodies. We can eat well to keep our bodies healthy. We can exercise to keep our bodies strong. But we’re also vulnerable. And when our health is under attack, we sometimes need help to fight back. Take Norfolk, Va., mother Kaniah Gunter, who you’ll meet in this month’s Health Journal. Kaniah battles a rare autoimmune disease that ravages her skin and muscles. Despite this challenge, Kaniah has been resilient, finding ways to improve her condition through therapy, exercise, clean eating and even the joy of singing. 

When tragic events happen, we find ways to recover.

When hearts shatter, we find ways to put the pieces back together. When everything in the world seems grim, we search for light in the dark.

We only need to open our eyes to find it. Even when just day-to-day living can be overwhelming, there are ways to work through it. This month’s piece on meditation can help. Writer Katie Gilstrap leads us through the steps of learning how to relax and be in the moment — and to just breathe.

Resilience means bouncing back, to fight rather than flee, to adapt in the face of change. It also sometimes means allowing ourselves to accept help when we need it. Not unlike that little tree at Ground Zero.

About the author

Kim O'Brien Root

Kim O'Brien Root was a newspaper reporter — writing for papers in Virginia and Connecticut — for 15 years before she took a break to be a stay-at-home mom. When the lure of writing became too strong, she began freelancing and then took on the role of the Health Journal’s editor in Dec. 2017. She juggles work with being a chronic volunteer for two PTAs
and the Girl Scouts. She lives in Hampton, Virginia with her husband, a fellow journalist, their two children and a dog.

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