Survivor tree saplings — symbols of 9/11 resiliency

William Murphy and Chau Lam  Newsday 

Francesca Yellico was home with her children in Lake Grove on September 11, 2001, and worried all day about her firefighter husband, Matthew, of Ladder Company 107.

“He was working on 9/11 and was literally driving over the Brooklyn Bridge when the second tower came down,” she said. “I had seven children, and I was home with the kids. I didn’t know he was alive until 5 p.m. when he finally got a chance to call.”

That day of worrying drove her to action, she said, volunteering on behalf of 9/11 victims and their loved ones.

She and her husband were among more than 30 people on hand Wednesday at the Commack Fire Department to accept about 100 saplings from the Survivor Tree of Ground Zero — a Callery pear tree that was badly damaged on 9/11 but was nurtured back to strength and now blooms at the National September 11 Memorial plaza.

A convoy of police and firefighting vehicles escorted the truck to Commack from John Bowne High School in Flushing, Queens, where the saplings were grown from seeds from the Survivor Tree under the supervision of Bartlett Tree Experts of Stamford, Connecticut.

Wayne Forte, 44, a New York City firefighter who lives in East Northport, said he spent about five months coordinating the selection of sites with local fire departments on Long Island.

“A lot of guys I work with were there on 9/11. They worked there. They went down there for days, looking for guys they lost,” said Forte, who is assigned to Ladder 164 in Douglaston, Queens. “This is a good gesture. It’s like a tree-of-life kind of thing. So that’s kind of why I did it.”

Each of the five saplings obtained by the Yellicos will be planted in coming days at September 11 memorial parks on Long Island. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano will welcome one of the trees Thursday when he attends the annual remembrance ceremony at the 9//11

The rest of the saplings given to the Yellicos will be planted at Rath Park memorial in Franklin Square, the Nassau County Fire Academy in Old Bethpage, the memorial park in Lake Grove and the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park in Nesconset.

Francesca Yellico said she and her husband wanted to make sure each sapling went to a location that was important to the families of first responders, and that they would be planted in a place where people could reflect and remember.

“These heartfelt tributes allow us not only to honor those who gave so much, but to keep their memories alive,” the couple said in a statement. “It is something that allows family, friends, and fellow citizens to see and remember the goodness, strength and resiliency that came from such a tragedy.”

Francesco Yellico also is urging Long Islanders to give blood on September 21 between 2 and 8 p.m. at the Nassau County Firefighters Museum in Garden City during a Day of Service sponsored by the Long Island Volunteer Center.

“We encourage our fellow New Yorkers to come donate blood, as they did in the days following the attacks. This Day of Service is not only in remembrance of 9/11, but is a tribute to all those who dedicate their lives in service to others,” she said.

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