CARROLLTON, Mo. — The tragic events of September 11, 2001 changed the fabric of American society forever, ingrained on the minds of people all across the country. More than 2,000 people died in three separate attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa.

When the towers fell in Manhattan, nearly everything in their path was obliterated. After the dust settled, only one tree remained unscathed, standing resolutely at the foot of the towers as smoke and dust swirled among the leaves. That tree became known as the ‘Survivor Tree.’

A local man found the ‘Survivor Tree’ and brought a little piece of it back to Carrollton. Now, new life sprouts in a park behind the Carroll County Historical Museum. Horticulturist and tree expert, Tom Carpenter, of Carrollton, shared his journey to bring a seedling from the ‘Survivor Tree’ back to Carroll County with KMZU’s Brian Lock. Click below to listen to their conversation in this Monday’s KMZU Newsmaker.


“This tree is a seedling from the Bradford Pear, the only tree that survived the collapse of the towers on September 11, 2001,” Carpenter explained. “It was taken to a nursery I believe in Long Island, New York for ten years and given tender love and care.”

Carpenter marveled at the history the tree was associated with. The ‘Survivor Tree’ is an example of the resilience of life – a testament that life will always march on, one way or another.

The offspring of the ‘Survivor Tree’

“When I was there in the Fall of 2011 after the dedication of the Trade Tower footprint memorial fountains I purposely looked for that tree,” Carpenter said. “At that time it was the only green tree of about 150 other trees, the leaves had already fallen off.”

In 2012, Carpenter acquired a seedling from that lush, green tree and brought it back to Carrollton. That’s when the hard work began – “tender love and care,” Carpenter said, referring to the process of germinating the seedling to maturity. Fast forward five years, and the tree is in solid, wet Earth in the heart of Missouri as a 9/11 memorial.

A dedication ceremony at the site of the tree, in Heroes Park tucked away among the meandering grove behind the Carroll County Historical Museum, was held Sunday, September 10 in tandem with a memorial for the victims, first responders, emergency services and others affected by the events of September 11. Speakers included three-tour veteran Richard Denker, Carroll County Ambulance District Administrator Sherry Clavin, Carroll County Sheriff Jewell McCoy and State Representative Joe Don McGaugh before the tree was formally dedicated.

The road to the plant taking roots in Heroes Park was a long and uneasy one, however, according to Carpenter. He came back from New York in 2012 with multiple seedlings hoping to germinate more than one and nurture them to full growth, but that’s not quite how things worked out.

“I only have one to show for, [laughter] for the few seedlings I did bring back,” Carpenter confessed. “It was probably pollinated at the Long Island Nursery, so it has to be classified as a seedling. Only half of the genetics are off of the survivor tree’, the other half was from probably somebody else’s [sic] pear tree in the neighborhood.”

Now, that single surviving seedling is bringing new life to Carrollton. In the future, when someone is out for a walk in Heroes Park behind the Carroll County Historical Museum, they will be able to rest under the shade of a vital piece of American history.