While waiting in line at the 9-11 Memorial in New York, I glanced at my Smartphone and saw this week’s photo theme. I can think of no better place than Ground Zero to document the endurance of the human spirit.
The 9-11 Memorial is powerful and very moving. In fact, as we entered the building and descended the stairs which brought us far below the earth, the emotions of that day and the following weeks came back in a rush. We stared in silence at a column of steel–one of the remaining girders of the Twin Towers.
We walked past another steel girder, warped from the heat and pressure. In a flash, we went back to that crisp, clear fall morning when the news broke that the first tower was struck by a plane. And how we watched the TV for hours, struggling to fully comprehend the enormity of the destruction and death.
It is still almost incomprehensible even now, thirteen years later. I am still trying to understand the terrorist mentality and how religious principles can be distorted to justify killing others.
At the same time, we saw testaments of hope, kindness and remarkable courage: ordinary people who risked their lives to help others.
And people who survived despite the odds. In the B Stairwell of the North Tower, 16 people crawled to safety down the last remaining staircase, pictured here.
I took heart too as I joined the people milling around the grounds by the 2 waterfalls marking the site of the original towers.
We lingered near a pear tree that survived the blast at ground zero. Its lone flowering branch caught the attention of rescue workers in the days and weeks following the attacks. Transplanted and nursed back to health, the pear tree was returned to its original site and renamed the “Survivor Tree.” (To view a short clip about the tree, click here.) As you can see, the lower portion of the tree is covered with thick, tough bark, as a protective response to the bomb blast. But the new shoots in the upper tree are markedly different. Their bark is smoother and a lighter color.
For me, this tree is a symbol of the endurance of the human spirit. It also reminds me of the process of regeneration after hardship. As survivors of adversity, we need to first grow “tough skin,” but that isn’t enough. For new shoots to grow, for hope to flower, we need to take risks. We need to put aside our anger and nurture the seeds of hope, of forgiveness, of kindness, of goodness within us. In the face of evil, it is our obligation and our responsibility to do good, so evil will not triumph. This is one of the themes I explore in my writing. It is my way of bringing a little more light into the world. What have you done? What would you like to do?
Click on the links below to see some memorable interpretations of this week’s theme: