Trees are extremely precious commodities in Manhattan, and it makes me sad whenever I see one come down. I was extra saddened this morning on the FDR Drive when I noticed a favorite weeping willow tree partially toppled by Hurricane Sandy. I didn't have my camera so I picked it up from my office and got back on the highway to take the shots posted above.
This was a meaningful tree, as it stands adjacent to Memorial Park – the sacred place that holds unidentified human remains from the 9/11 terrorist attack. Memorial Park is the name for the white tent built as a temporary morgue that originally contained refrigerated trailers. It has since been renovated into a shrine with a chapel where victims’ relatives can come privately to mourn. It’s a quiet location not open to the public, much different from the tourist-choked site of the original Twin Towers.
Memorial Park is between 29th and 30th Streets near Bellevue Hospital, and maintained by the Medical Examiner’s office. Using DNA technology, the office identified 59% of the 2,753 people reported missing in the WTC terrorist attack. The remains may eventually be transferred downtown to the Ground Zero Memorial, but this is a subject of controversy.
Every time I came down the FDR I had a brief moment to watch the graceful motion of the branches and leaves. The contrast between this tiny speck of green against the surging concrete metropolis beyond was astounding. The weeping willow was appropriate for this site with its poetic association with sadness, grief, death and rebirth.
There aren’t many weeping willows in Manhattan. It’s certainly not in the top ten tree species published by the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation. The location of this one just steps from the East River was consistent with its affinity for water. According the guidebook entitled New York City Trees there are a few in Central Park around the lakes and reservoirs.
I am sorry that this tree is toppled. It’s a small reminder of our mortality in the face of disasters – both natural and man-made. Perhaps somewhere on the grounds of the adjacent NYU Medical Center they can find someone who can save it.
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For more info on Memorial Park click here.