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The Daily Tar Heel

Program Memoralizes Victims With Trees

But after participants planted a Chinese elm at The Unique Plant at 4207 Oak Hill Road in Chapel Hill their focus shifted to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The idea for the Trees of Strength program originated in Orange County, when Carolyn Aaronson, a volunteer at the Botanical Gardens, conceived the notion of "a living memorial" for the victims of Sept. 11 while working Sept. 12.

"I thought, `Wouldn't it be really nice if we planted a tree for each person that died?'" Aaronson said. "This is a tangible and powerful thing that is also a gift for the environment."

Aaronson said she took her idea to agricultural extension agent Royce Hardin of the N.C. Cooperative Extension, who helped make her idea a reality with the help of the Master Gardner Program.

Trees of Strength is a statewide program that enables individuals, families, communities, schools, civic groups, religious organizations and others to memorialize the victims of terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The program allows planters to register their trees and gives them the information necessary to properly care for them.

"Our purpose is primarily educational," Hardin said. "What we could do is help (people) properly plant and maintain a tree."

Trees of Strength has taken root with the help of local volunteers like Joann Currier, owner of The Unique Plant, who offered to host a tree-planting at her store.

The project also has received attention from local officials. The Orange County Board of Commissioners will vote Tuesday on possibly dedicating this November to the Trees of Strength program.

At Saturday's planting, the gardeners took turns shoveling scoops of soil at the tree's base. After they planted the tree, the participants took a moment of silence and watched Aaronson tie a red, white and blue ribbon to a branch.

"I learned a lot and it was quite moving when they tied the ribbon on," said workshop participant Joanne Garrett. "I think that's what absolutely amazed me. We may go on with our lives and think we're not thinking about (the attacks), but we are."

Registration for the program is free, but those who wish to plant a Tree of Strength must buy and maintain the tree themselves and identify the tree with a red, white and blue ribbon.

"I wanted a symbol for the loss that would be an enduring symbol, that would be getting bigger and stronger," Aaronson explained. "Many of the trees will last way past our lifetimes -- that's a powerful statement."

For more information, contact the Orange County Cooperative Extension at 245-2050 or http://orange.ces.state.nc.us.

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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