Living tributes honor the dead

Remembrance: Through a statewide program, many people have purchased or planted trees as memorials to those who died Sept. 11.

November 30, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Next spring in Annapolis, when Bee Savage sees the heart-shaped leaves and rosy-pink flowers of the new redbud tree in Quiet Waters Park, she knows it will move her to tears.

She expects to be touched by the tree's beauty, but also because this harbinger of a new season will honor her beloved daughter, Joan McConnell Cullinan, who was killed Sept. 11 in the World Trade Center.

"It will be like a living memorial," Savage said, tears filling her eyes as she thinks ahead to when the tree will be planted in April. "Joan loved Annapolis very, very much."

The redbud was a gift to Savage from her friend Jacqueline Sutton, who bought it through Tree-mendous Maryland, a state Department of Natural Resources program that helps people buy native trees and shrubs for planting on public land.

"I felt so awful about the whole thing. ... Then I thought ... maybe it would be comforting for her to know that there's a tree in the park dedicated to her daughter," said Sutton, 73, of Annapolis.

During the past few weeks, many Marylanders have turned to the state program for the same reason. Groups including Girl Scouts in Anne Arundel County and women's clubs in Baltimore, Cecil and Carroll counties also have tapped Tree-mendous to commemorate the thousands lost in the terrorist attacks.

For $25, the program will plant a tree in someone's name in a park or forest, on school grounds or along a waterway. A gift of $250 buys a grove of 10 trees.

People have bought trees to mark births, anniversaries, Mother's Day and other events. The program has planted more than 9 million trees, shrubs and seedlings throughout the state, said program director Terry Galloway.

Nearly 800 Girl Scouts spent their Thanksgiving vacation in Severna Park digging and planting 86 trees, plants and bushes - one for every country that lost someone Sept. 11 - as part of a 50-square- foot Hope Memorial Garden. The garden, at Kinder Farm Park, will be dedicated at 2 p.m. Dec. 9.

In another project, several chapters of the Maryland Federation of Women's Clubs Inc. are buying trees for a Wye Island preservation project on the Eastern Shore. The two trees bought by one of the clubs, Rolling Hills Woman's Club of Catonsville, will honor the Fire Department of New York City.

"We didn't want [the victims] to be forgotten," said Babs Condon, adviser to the federation's Stars Juniorette Club of Westminster, a group of middle and high school girls involved in the project. "Even though the people are gone, part of their memory lives on."

Marylanders have turned to Tree-mendous, founded in 1989, after other tragedies, Galloway said.

In 1995, she said, scores of trees were planted in memory of the 168 people, including 19 children, who were killed in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19 that year. Later that year, more trees were planted after the assassination in November of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

"It's a gift not just to honor or memorialize, but it's a gift to the environment and to future generations," Galloway said.

When the tree in memory of Joan Cullinan takes root at Quiet Waters Park, it will bring Bee Savage full circle: She took a walk through the park with Joan the Sunday before her death.

"It was the last time I saw her," Savage said of Joan, one of her three daughters. "It just seems so appropriate now. I'm forever grateful for that weekend."

Newlywed Joan and her husband, Tom, had spent the weekend before Sept. 11 in Annapolis visiting Savage and shopping for a dining room set for their home in Scarsdale, N.Y.

Savage spoke with Joan on Monday about shipping the furniture to New York. On Tuesday, Savage got a phone call from her daughter's best friend, Joanna Hydock, in Colorado. Hydock had been on the phone with Joan at 8:45 a.m. when the first hijacked plane plowed into the World Trade Center's north tower.

Hydock told Savage that she heard Joan scream, "Oh my God! It's a bomb! Wait for me!"

Joan didn't say goodbye. She apparently dropped the receiver and tried to get off the 104th floor, where she was assistant to the president at Cantor Fitzgerald.

Hydock told Savage she could hear on the phone what sounded like a plane taking off. Savage turned on her television and saw smoke billowing out of the tower where her daughter worked.

"We hung up, and that's when the second plane hit," Savage recalled. "I kept thinking that it was going to be like War of the Worlds, Orson Welles, that this is just a fake thing that they're showing."

At 47, Joan, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was pointing her life in new directions. She wanted to become a psychotherapist and recently had made plans to enter graduate school And she and her husband were working on adopting a baby from China.

At a memorial Mass Sept. 29 at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York, Joan was remembered as a mentor and confidante to young women in business. A memorial fund has been established in Joan's name to provide scholarships to girls from the inner city.

"She had a lot of young women that she helped," said Savage, 70, who moved to Annapolis from New York last year. "They would be afraid to go and see about a better job, and she would always encourage them."

Martha Hyson, chairwoman of the Maryland Federation of Women's Clubs' Wye Island project challenged all 71 clubs in the state to plant trees honoring the victims of Sept. 11.

"It's something that reminds us of life." said Hyson, 65, of Hampstead.

Senior troop leader Claudette McDonald, whose Girl Scout 1472 troop thought up the Kinder Farm Park memorial, said the plantings of black chokeberry, beautyberry and summer sweet play a therapeutic role as well.

"If we plant something in the fall, it's going to look sickly. That's kind of how people feel now," McDonald said. "We're planting things now that will bloom in the spring, in the summer. And every time people walk by this, they're going to see something in bloom and they're going to see hope in the future."

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