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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Meredith Orban

New York, NY

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Rise of Freedom: Bringing Life to Ground Zero

August 27, 2010 - 2:30 PM | by: Meredith Orban

On Friday, 10 of the 416 trees destined for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum will begin their journey to Ground Zero.

“Today is D-Day for us.  It’s the magical day,” said Ronaldo Vega, the Director of Design for the 9/11 Memorial.

Vega spoke as workers from Environmental Design, the contractor responsible for the trees, loaded the thirty-foot trees on to forklifts and carefully hoisted them on to flatbeds.

The Swamp White Oak trees have been growing in a Millstone Township, New Jersey nursery since 2007.  They’ll make the 60-mile trip up the New Jersey Turnpike, over the George Washington Bridge to the Henry Hudson Parkway and down the west side of Manhattan before they’re planted at the memorial site tomorrow morning.  A total of sixteen will be planted this weekend.

After the September 11th attacks, Vega was one of the managers of the recovery and rescue effort at Ground Zero.

“It was a mass grave,” he said, “We’re going to turn it into a place where living things are and where future generations can enjoy life and remember. They’ll always remember what took place there.”

Vega says the trees are symbolic in many ways.

“They speak of rebirth, how they die and come back every season.  They breathe just like we do,” he said.

The selection process was significant as well.

“The trees were harvested from the states where the attacks took place.  So, even the trees speak of the trauma that took place on 9/11.”

Trauma aside, Vega says this is a day of hope.  This is, “the first life on the plaza.  This is it.  This means we’ve come back… That’s what these trees represent. They’re the bridge between that horrible day and our rebirth.”

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