Roots of healing

Sculpture of tree that protected chapel commemorates 9/11
August 31, 2005

A bronzed replica of the root system of a historic tree that helped to save St. Paul’s Chapel from falling debris when the towers at the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, will be installed and dedicated at Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York, four years after the disaster. Visitors will be invited to walk under and through the 10-to-18-foot-high, 8,000-pound sculpture that will be placed in the courtyard at Trinity’s entrance.

The aged sycamore, known as “the tree that saved St. Paul’s,” toppled when it took the brunt of the force after the Twin Towers crumbled to the ground. St. Paul’s, a chapel built by Trinity Church in 1766, remained relatively unscathed. For the next eight months, this chapel it served as a relief and counseling center for recovery and emergency teams, providing food, respite and quiet sanctuary from the grim scene outside.

After hearing the story of the sycamore, Pennsylvania sculptor Steve Tobin decided to use the tree’s roots for inspiration, envisioning them as a metaphor for the strength and connectedness of St. Paul’s ministry in the aftermath of 9/11. He also wanted his work to honor the victims, volunteers and rescue workers.

Tobin, who has been creating art since he was 13, described the response of St. Paul’s to the disaster as “the only uplifting story” surrounding the terrorist attacks.

“St. Paul’s changed its mandate that year and opened its doors,” he said. “They were a vehicle for an uplifting response, so to make something that will be a lasting monument to this is a real honor.” Tobin said he always had been interested in science. In his work, he said, he is connected to a broader spiritual context through studying “a philosophical reaction to the earth and the reaction to man and the surrounding environment.”

“It is symbolic that [the terrorists] knocked down the buildings,” he said, “and all that did was uncover the roots.” The completed sculpture will be dedicated and installed on Sept. 10. “I really wanted to be associated with this healing” on this anniversary of 9/11, Tobin said. “The sculpture is an uplifting story.”

More on Steve Tobin’s work may be found at:

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