Presenting the 25 Years of Global ReLeaf series has offered American Forests’ staff an opportunity to look back through our more than 1,000 projects. This reflection has helped us understand what our predecessors worked on throughout our history and learn about our myriad of partners and the ecosystems of the globe we prioritized. For our 2002 projects, our dip into history exposed several that are about so much more than restoration; they are about people.
I know I am not alone in that I can recall distinctly where I was in 2001 on the morning of Sept. 11. I was fast asleep in the top bunk of my college dorm room when a friend from down the hall barged in unannounced and turned on the TV. She gave me a quick one-liner on what had occurred — a plane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. It was all she knew. And, then, the second plane crashed into the South Tower. My room quickly became the main viewing center, and women from my floor came in and out throughout the day. We all sat mostly in silence trying to make sense of the tragedy occurring 250 miles away. I recall being grateful that I was surrounded by friends. Discovering that American Forests had supported projects to honor those who perished warmed my heart and led me into a rabbit-hole, sifting through news articles, photos, and memories of that unforgettable day.
During the year following the attacks, American Forests worked with partners to plant a tree to remember and recognize the thousands of innocent men, women, and children who perished that day. In Somerset County Pennsylvania, American Forests planted 40 trees in honor of individuals aboard Flight 93 who tried to regain control of the flight. Though the plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa. claiming the lives of all aboard, hundreds —maybe thousands — of lives were saved by preventing the plane from hitting its intended target.
In Arlington, Va. at the Pentagon, American Forests planted 368 trees — 184 on private land and 184 on public land — in remembrance of the 59 innocent victims of Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon and the 125 people who perished within the building. For the nearly 3,000 total fatalities of the series of Sept. 11 attacks, American Forests also planted 3,000 trees throughout the woodland and parks in New York City and 3,000 trees in memorial groves throughout Washington D.C.
American Forests could never do enough to remember the victims of Sept. 11. We hope that the trees we planted have created a living memorial that provides comfort to people who survived, or lost a loved one, and honors those who had the courage to risk their lives to save others.