Amid the wreckage of the World Trade Center and a month after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, rescue and cleanup workers discovered what turned out to be a severely damaged Callery pear tree.
The tree’s roots were snapped and its branches burned and broken.
Somehow, it survived — and has since thrived.
Monday, on the 16th anniversary of 9/11, Suffolk County police officers, emergency responders, and locally elected leaders gathered outside police headquarters in Yaphank for a special dedication and memorial ceremony.
There, a sapling grown from a seed of what’s now known as the “Survivor Tree” stands about 11 feet tall outside HQ. (There are such trees planted near municipal buildings and police stations across the country.)
The tree was actually planted three years ago, however “unceremoniously,” explained SCPD Chief of Department Stuart Cameron.
“It wasn’t recognized by many of the people who work at police headquarters until Liam Morse, an Eagle Scout candidate, proposed that he would build this walkway around it,” Cameron told those assembled on Monday. “When he proposed this project I had no idea it would turn out so spectacular.”
His efforts, as well as the lives lost and the sacrifices made 16 years ago in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., were all recognized in a ceremony that included a moment of silence and helicopter flyover.
Morse was also presented with a proclamation from the police brass.
The pear tree is expected to grow as high as 30 feet tall, said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini.
“Sept. 11 is and always will be a moment of remembrance, sorrow and pain,” said Sini. “But it’s also grown to be a day when we celebrate our nation’s resiliency.
“Many people, including Suffolk County residents, displayed on that frightful day the spirit that has become what we celebrate today,” Sini continued, “a beacon of what this country, and more importantly our region, is capable of enduring.”
Sini called Morse, of Troop 3 in Smithtown, “one of those special people who is devoted to celebrating our resiliency and our nation’s spirit.”
Morse told reporters after the ceremony that he learned of the tree through his mother, a detective in the Fourth Precinct.
“I thought it would be a good idea,” he said, explaining he has a personal connection to 9/11, in that three family friends were killed that day in New York City.
“I grew up with their widows,” he said.
The project was helped along by Police Officer Frank Filiberto, whose family owns a paving stone installment business. Filiberto donated time, labor and material.
“I had the chance to give back; and it felt really good to give back,” he said. “It was just a great experience. It’s great to see Liam becoming an Eagle Scout. I’m happy to be here and it looks amazing. And thank you, Liam, for getting me involved.”
Top: Suffolk Police Officer Frank Filiberto and Eagle Scout candidate Liam Morse of Troop 3 in Smithtown. (Photos by Michael White)