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GUEST COLUMN: The Survivor Tree

GUEST COLUMN: The Survivor Tree

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In order to balance great events in my life, I have turned to writing my thoughts on paper. In extreme cases, this takes the form of poetry.

Thus I have the first poem, “Nine Eleven,” written within 24 hours of the event and containing my raw reaction to what I had seen on the television.

I was supposed to be preparing a study on the Book of Jonah for Sunday School, but all thoughts were metamorphosed into what just happened. I had to write a poem of the effusive emotions that abounded in me.

Fear is the subject. Fear of an apocalyptic event, and whether I can brave the future.

The second poem, “Twelve Years Past” (a hymn of hope), was the result of a visit I made to New York and Manhattan with a group from the Robert Louis Stevenson Club.

Part of the itinerary was to visit the memorial to 9/11. We joined with a multi-ethnic crowd of pilgrims from all over the world. The composition of the crowd was in stark contrast to that of the victims, who were mostly local New York City residents.

The tree mentioned in the poem, now known as the Survivor Tree (see photograph), was resurrected from the pile of rubble, once a wonder of the city, and replanted in the memorial garden.

I rubbed its leaves between my fingers and recited Robert Burns’ immortal words:

For a’ that, and a’ that,

It’s coming yet for a’ that.

That Man to Man the world o’er

Shall brothers be for a’ that.

Nine Eleven

Now alone, within the blanket of my thought,

Hide I from all that yesterday hath brought.

When 'venging hell came jetting from the sky,

Seeing people choosing how, not when, to die.

In quiet contemplation now I cry,

“What means these images?”


So great was the catastrophe’s scale,

That language of the tongue did fail.

And pictures, haunting pictures tell,

Ten thousand tragedies befell.

September, Tuesday, Oh! remember well,

Save deep in memories.


The Red Wood and the Stoic Oak,

Were by terror’s cruel stroke,

Cut down to mold on forest’s floor,

As all spectate for evermore.

Exempting ye who flee no more,

Surreal but still I see.


To you whose god is of another kind,

And Ishmael, thru terror seeks to find,

Paternal acceptance in Jihad's suicide,

And bearded hatred much justified.

As fellow man through cell phone cries

“Is this the heart of God?”


So hide I, but not in fear of man,

For yet convinced that God is sovereign.

Through live, wet, tears, goes plowing pain,

As “It will never be the same again!”

Let victory swallow death insane.

Perhaps, I hide from me?

JTB | Sept 12, 2001

Twelve Years Past

In Manhattan there’s a tree, do you know, do you know?

There’s a tree that should not be, do you know?

A before and after tree of sorts, who upwardly exhorts,

And the pilgrims rub its bark.

Do you know?


In Manhattan they come to sigh, do you know, do you know?

A hundred nations file on by, do you know?

For they all remember when “it was not the same again,”

And a scream rang round the world.

Do you know?


Of the sorrow and the grief, do you know, do you know?

Of the nations disbelief, do you know?

From the pauper to the crown, they all came tumbling down,

Bodies shroud the tree like leaves.

Do you know?


This the story of the tree, do you know, do you know?

A prophet of what must be, do you know?

Resurrected from the pyre to humbly inspire,

Man to be the better man!

Do you know?


A first decade long has past, do you know, do you know?

New growth better than the last, do you know

In Manhattan there’s a tree a world must come and see,

For it speaks to you and me, well we know, well we know!

A better man must be!

Well we know.

JTB | 9/11/2013

[The tree, a survivor, was saved and replanted at the new site.]

A native of Scotland, Jim Bertram lives in Florence. He is a former member of the Morning News’ Faith & Values board.


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