Return to Headlines

Library book about the Survivor Tree teaching lessons in resiliency

A paper machete tree looms large outside the Donelson Elementary library to showcase lessons in resiliency.
A paper machete tree looms large outside the Donelson Elementary library to showcase lessons in resiliency.

Article written by Jake Stoope, ACS Communications Intern

First through 5th graders at Donelson Elementary School (DES) are getting a taste of how real-world issues can impact people by reading This Very Tree: a heart-wrenching story told from the perspective of the last tree pulled from the rubble at Ground Zero, 9/11’s impact zone. The resiliency of this plant is teaching young students life lessons that will live on forever. 

Krista Parker has been serving as the DES librarian for three years now. Each year, her students get to vote for the Volunteer State Book Award, honoring the best book of the year in the state of Tennessee. This Very Tree is one of the five nominees for the award in both elementary divisions and has stood out among the rest of the field for its astounding story and deep message. 

“I’m hoping that reading this will give them hope to push on through testing and the end of the year,” Parker said about the This Very Tree. “It will remind them to give it their best.” 

This is not just another ordinary tree. Weeks after the tragedy of 9/11, the Survivor Tree was discovered in the rubble, representing the last form of life pulled from the wreckage. The tree, decapitated and destined to die, still showed signs of life. After much care and rehab, the Survivor Tree now stands alive and tall at the 9/11 memorial in New York City. 

The Survivor Tree memorial is a place where people can visit to feel motivated, to keep fighting and never give up. By reading This Very Tree, DES students are beginning to understand the importance of valuable life lessons; so much so that they decided to make a tree of their own.  

In the hallway outside the DES Library now stands the beautiful Survivor Tree replica made of paper, staples and scotch tape. Aside from the stunning artwork, starting at the floor with brown crinkled paper that leads to colorful, blooming leaves, what Parker wants people to see is that the story of one tree teaches a more applicable lesson than anything they could learn in school. 

The leaves on this tree hold special meaning. Written on them is a meaningful word or encouraging phrase that each student has thought of or been impacted by while reading this book. Words like “hope,” “resiliency” and “survivor” remind students and staff that they are stronger than ever, to get back up when they fall and to never give up.  

“These are lessons that surpass just knowing about a tree.” Parker said about the leaves. “We don’t want to raise students on knowledge alone, we want to raise them up in empathy and understanding, how to be a good community member, how to be encouraging to others when things go wrong and how to be resilient when things get tough.”  

Many tourists visit the Survivor Tree memorial in New York City to simply stand in its presence, look up at the leaves and know that everything is going to be all right. The leaves on the DES replica give off a similar effect, if not identical. “Even though this is not the real Survivor Tree,” Parker said emotionally, “when you read what these 1st-5th grade students wrote, it gives you a sense of peace and resilience.” 

Article written by Jake Stoope, ACS Communications