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Survivor tree gets trim, examination

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- An American elm tree that thrived with little care for decades and then survived the Oklahoma City bombing now lives a pampered existence that included an examination and a trim Monday.

Zack Mitchell, an employee of Professional Tree Care of Edmond, climbed the so-called Survivor Tree to snip deadwood, eradicate mistletoe and remove crossed or rubbing branches. He pronounced it healthy.

"It should be around for quite a while," he said. "It's got a lot of good growth."

Mark Bays, a state forestry coordinator, estimated that the tree is at least 80 years old.

"We've seen pictures of the tree in 1946 in the backyard of somebody's house," Bays said. "It was a big tree even then."

The tree lived much of its later life in a parking lot surrounded by asphalt.

On April 19, 1995, a bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and killed 168 people. Debris was flung into the crown of the tree, which was about 75 yards from the point of detonation. Burning cars singed its branches, but when the smoke cleared, the tree was still standing.

The tree became a symbol of resilience and its image provided the logo for the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

Architects for the memorial did everything they could to preserve the tree.

The asphalt was pulled back. Watering, aeration and drainage systems were built. A raised walkway around the tree is supported by more than 80 piers, which were placed in holes dug by hand to ensure that no root was damaged by a shovel.

The tree's seeds are collected to grow seedlings that have been given to bombing survivors, rescuers and even to people affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

There is no lack of skilled arborists willing to donate their services.

"Any kind of pruning or spraying, we just make the request of the tree care industry and they come," Bays said. "They want to do what they can to make sure this tree is going to be around as long as it can.
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