ROME N.Y. – Airmen of the Eastern Air Defense Sector marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center by planting a seedling from a tree that survived the attack outside their headquarters in Rome.
The seedling from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Survivor Tree was planted May 26 by Rome Mayor Jackie Izzo, EADS Commander Col. Paul M. Bishop, and several New York Air National Guardsmen from the 224th Air Defense Group during a short ceremony.
The Survivor Tree was found under the rubble of the World Trade Center, severely damaged but still alive, during recovery operations in October 2001.
According to the 9/11 Memorial website, the tree was removed and rehabilitated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. It was returned to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in 2010, where it stands in a glade at Ground Zero, a living reminder of survival and rebirth.
Since 2013, seedlings from the tree have been provided to communities that have experienced tragedy.
"This Sept. 11 is the 20th anniversary of the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.," Bishop said. "That day profoundly impacted EADS and continues to influence our thoughts and actions 20 years later."
Then known as the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), EADS was one of the first U.S. military units to respond to the attacks. The New York Air National Guard Airmen based in Rome are responsible for coordinating the air defense of the United States east of the Mississippi.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Airmen from EADS first took the calls from civilian air traffic controllers notifying them that airliners had been hijacked by terrorists. The EADS controllers worked to vector fighter jets to intercept the hijacked airliners and coordinated with Federal Aviation Administration traffic controls to track the four planes.
"EADS is extremely grateful to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum for the Survivor Tree seedling," Bishop said. "The tree occupies a prominent spot at our site and will provide a constant reminder to Airmen that the air defense we help provide is needed to keep our nation safe."
In 2013, in partnership with Bartlett Tree Experts and John Bowne High School in Queens, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum launched the Survivor Tree Seedling Program. Each year, the Memorial gives seedlings from the Survivor Tree to three communities that have endured tragedy in recent years.
The tree planting is the first of several 9/11 commemorative events EADS has planned. The events will culminate with a memorial ceremony at the facility Sept. 11.