For Immediate Release – May 17, 2022
MIDDLETOWN, NJ – Middletown Township held a ceremony this morning welcoming a clone produced from the original 9/11 Survivor Tree graciously donated by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) to the Middletown World Trade Center (WTC) Memorial Gardens, located next to the Middletown Arts Center (36 Church Street). The Survivor Tree is a Callery pear tree that endured the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. Due to how damaged the Survivor Tree was, very few clones exist from its cuttings. This is the first time NYC Parks has donated a clone to a municipality outside of New York City.
Middletown suffered the second most 9/11 losses after New York City. “Having a clone of the Survivor Tree is a unique and meaningful way to connect our communities through our shared grief and stands as a symbol of perseverance rooted in strength,” said Mayor Tony Perry. “This is a tremendous gift from NYC Parks that we will forever cherish.”
The 15-foot tree was escorted via a brief motorcade of fire and police vehicles down Church Street into the WTC Memorial Gardens to the sounds of patriotic music performed on the bagpipes by Michael Hannigan. The tree was greeted by a large U.S. flag flown by the Middletown Township Fire Department, and then U.S. Naval Weapons Station Earle Color Guard presented the colors to begin the ceremony.
Speakers included Mayor Perry, U.S. Naval Weapons Station Earle Commanding Officer Captain Edward L. Callahan, and Monmouth County Commissioner Director Thomas Arnone. Elected and Township officials were in attendance, as well as Middletown first responders, members of the U.S. Navy, and the media.
The original Survivor Tree was discovered at Ground Zero a month after the tragedy, severely damaged with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of NYC Parks.
Richie Cabo, retired Director of The NYC Parks Citywide Nursery, helped rehabilitate the tree at the nursery in the Bronx before it was returned to the National 9/11 Memorial in 2010. “New limbs have extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present,” per the 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s website.
Mr. Cabo propagated the clones from 6” cuttings of the Survivor Tree. “They are truly the only clones,” said Cabo. “Other 9/11 saplings grown were from seeds collected from the Survivor Tree. The clones will be identical to the Survivor Tree, unlike the trees grown from its seeds which result in varying characteristics and genetic traits,” he explained.
“The Survivor Tree is a symbol of our area’s resilience, perseverance, and in the aftermath of the attack, renewal. After the Callery pear was discovered and pulled from Ground Zero, NYC Parks staff were instrumental in saving the tree, nursing it back to health, and returning it to the grounds of Tower One where it stands strong today,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “To the entire Middletown community, we’re honored to donate a clone of the original Survivor Tree to you, one of only five, and hope that its continued growth fosters healing and remembrance for years to come.”
Middletown received the tree through Gal Lavid, Head of Building and Park Maintenance for Middletown Township, who previously worked for NYC Parks. “Gal played a crucial role in working with NYC Parks to bring this rare tree to our Memorial Gardens which will be a physical representation of beauty stemming from tragedy,” said Mayor Perry. “This will help honor the 37 residents we lost, and hopefully provide a sense of comfort and hope to their loved ones when they visit our Gardens.”
The cloned offspring of the Survivor Tree will be planted in the Memorial Gardens in preparation for the 21st anniversary of 9/11. This symbolic tree is another enhancement to the Gardens. Last year, to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Middletown WTC Memorial Gardens Committee installed new landscaping, lighting, a walkway of personalized bricks that lead to the memorial pathway, a first responder/military memorial, as well as a memorial for those we lost due to 9/11-related illnesses. The monument was dedicated last year to late Detective Lt. Joseph Capriotti, known as the “keeper of the list”. He personally notified every Middletown family who lost a loved one that day.
Residents honored at the Gardens are:
Lorraine D. Antigua
Jane S. Beatty
Alfred J. Braca
Ronald M. Breitweiser
Patrick J. Buhse
Stephen J. Cangialosi
Swede Joseph Chevalier
Dolores Marie Costa
Edward Desimone III
Daniel J. Gallagher
John M. Grazioso
Patrick A. Hoey
Kathleen A. Hunt Casey
Brendan Mark Lang
Roseanne P. Lang
Anna A. Laverty
Michael Patrick McDonnell
Peter T. Milano
Louis J. Minervino
Justin John Molisani, Jr.
James Thomas Murphy
Paul R. Nimbley
Robert Emmett Parks, Jr.
Nicholas P. Pietrunti
John M. Pocher
Beth Ann Quigley
Robert Andrew Spencer
Rodney James Wotto
About the Middletown WTC Memorial Gardens
The Memorial Gardens were developed by the Middletown WTC Memorial Committee, a group consisting of family members and concerned residents. The Memorial Gardens were opened to the public on September 11, 2003. Construction of the memorial was made possible largely through donations. Visitors are welcome at the Middletown WTC Memorial Gardens, located at the Middletown Arts Center at 36 Church Street, from dawn to dusk daily.