Grieving Mother Fights for 9/11 Tree Memorial


In 2001, when the planes hit the World Trade Center, Jeremy urged Wang to pay attention to the terrorism attack that was unfolding.

"Jeremy was the person who made me stop the conference call I was doing and go outside," she said. "I was in the middle of a big complicated deal and couldn't be bothered with what was happening. Because our patio had a clear sight line to World Trade Center [employees] saw the whole of first plane."

After Wang left the building, others watched the second plane hit.

No one at DoubleClick perished in 9/11, but several lost spouses. "We had nothing to do with 9/11, but [Jeremy's death] was close enough that the timing gets mixed up about which came first," said Wang.

"I thought Jeremy would be my friend for life," said Wang, 45. "He was like a brother to me. … I had this assumption that I would know him as he grew and went to business school and got married, and I would be invited to the wedding. It was tough."

DoubleClick loved Jeremy as well, and when he was killed, his former colleagues searched for a way to commemorate his life, asking horticulturist Steven Keith, who maintained the garden planters on the company's huge rooftop patio, to find something appropriate.

"I'm a tree guy, that's what I do," said Keith, who runs a small business, For the Plants, in Stamford, Conn.

"His mother has a right to demand a marker," he said. "Her voice made me remember him, how quickly things happen and suddenly the world is different."

When the twin towers collapsed, the initial concussion, compounded by the granular cement dust cloud covered many of the downtown plants, cutting off their access to light, air and water.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Keith had been allowed behind police lines in the so-called red zone around the World Financial Center to collect dozens of trees from the specialty gardens he had tended. "I thought they could be revived," he said.

One of the 11 red maples, half dozen black pines and weeping cherries that Keith nurtured back to life was the tree he selected for Jeremy, a "blood good" maple that had come from River Rose, an apartment complex at Rector Place.

"I knew Jeremy," said Keith. "It was a big, open, friendly company at the time, and I knew him. I wanted to do something for him."

New York City Allows Memorials in Tree Book

DoubleClick commemorated the tree at an unveiling ceremony and kept it outside Jeremy's former office. But in 2003, the company moved offices, and there was no place for the tree, so Iris Palley had it transplanted at Carl Schurz Park, where it is now thriving.

At first she didn't ask for a plaque. "I wanted to see if it would live," she said. "It was so teenie, like two twigs, when DoubleClick presented the tree."

Originally, Palley asked the conservancy board to honor Jeremy on a plaque but later said she'd be happy just to identify where the tree was found.

She said officials told her "We don't do plaques, but we do benches. You could buy a bench."

"There are plaques under and next to trees all over Central Park," said Palley.

Today the area around the tree is a "mess," according to Palley, and Howard of the Carl Schurz Park Conservancy agreed but said the board is tight on funds.

Wang, who first met Iris Palley at Jeremy's funeral and has become a close friend, said she too can't understand the park's stance.

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