This marks 19 years since the tragic attacks of September 11th. Many of us can remember exactly where we were the moment we learned about the attack. No matter how many years pass, we will always honor the victims who are no longer with us. We remember the incredible sacrifice of the first responders, including those we have since lost to 9/11-related illnesses – among them many of our own. And we remember the days after 9/11, amid the pain and loss, when everyone felt a common strength, camaraderie, and sense of purpose.
The attacks that brought this country to its knees also brought us together. People lined up to give blood and signed up for military and government service. People of all faiths prayed together at vigils and hung American flags outside their homes. Lawmakers crossed party lines to sing “God Bless America” on the Capitol Steps. Americans from all walks of life stood together as one nation.
There’s perhaps no better example of this kind of resilience than the so-called “Survivor Tree,” which today stands on the site of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
A month after 9/11, recovery workers discovered a pear tree buried in the rubble of the Twin Towers. They dug up the tree from the ruins and placed it in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
The damaged and broken tree was replanted in a park in the Bronx and it wasn’t expected to survive. But over the years, the tree recovered and was moved to the 9/11 memorial grounds in 2010. And today, smooth limbs extend from the tree’s trunk, green leaves burst forth every spring, and it grows higher with each passing year.
The tree stands as a living reminder of our nation’s resilience, and it continues to offer hope to other cities and towns healing from their own tragedies. Each year, the museum gives seedlings from the Survivor Tree to communities that have endured terror attacks, mass shootings, and natural disasters – places like Parkland and Paris, Manchester and Madrid, Fort Hood and Far Rockaway. The seedlings are then replanted as a symbol of new growth and perseverance in those healing communities.
This year, the challenges that we’ve faced as a nation have been unlike any other. But like that pear tree, we’re resilient. So let today serve as a reminder that when things seem unbearable, we can look to the hope and resilience demonstrated by those on September 11th for strength and inspiration. We’ve got to push forward. We’ve got to be vigilant. And most importantly, we’ve got to take care of each other. I'm humbled to stand beside you in this work, and, as always, I’m grateful to you for doing it so well.
Director of the FBI