As the Rev. John O'Brien of Bel Air put it, the Earth moved when the massive white oak came crashing down in last Thursday's storm.
"I think it's just a sentimental loss for the people of Bel Air," O'Brien, associate pastor of St. Margaret's Church on Hickory Avenue, said of the demise of the mighty tree on property leased by the church. "You hate to see large trees go," he said.
O'Brien or other officials did not know the height of the oak. O'Brien said church officials thought it was about 400 years old.
Wayne K. Merkel, a state forester who works in Harford County, said state records indicated the tree was about 300 years old. It probably was the oldest and largest white oak in Bel Air, he said.
The official state champion white oak, the Wye Oak in the Eastern Shore town of Wye Mills, is thought to be at least 425 years old.
Anyway, the Bel Air tree was big and old and as O'Brien said, "there's an awful lot more sunlight on Hickory Avenue now."
O'Brien said townspeople saw the tree as a symbol of strength. It was rooted on property across the street from the church, on the site of the old Bo Peep Day Nursery. The Catholic church, which serves 3,500 families, leases the old Bo Peep day-care center and runs its pre-school operation there.
Fortunately, O'Brien said, no one was hurt when the tree came down and there was very little property damage. The chore now is cleaning up the fallen giant.