Living Tribute to 9/11 Heroes

Tree planting ceremony memorializes 11 who died in WTC attack

By Bryan Virasami

April 8, 2002

Eleven victims of the World Trade Center tragedy who were buried in Calvary Cemetery were recalled in a ceremony last week that will keep their memories alive.

Wives, mothers, children and friends were among those who gathered with local officials at the Woodside burial ground to help plant ash trees for the victims.

Seven of the 11 were firefighters.

After the Rev. Patrick Holohan offered the benediction and sprinkled holy water on a tree, family members of several victims took turns shoveling dirt on a 12th tree planted in memory of all Sept. 11 victims.

Relatives who attended the ceremony said they felt the "Memorial Treeway of Champion Trees" would be a lasting symbol of their loved ones.

"This is beautiful," said Raffaella Crisci of Holbrook, L.I., who lost her firefighter husband, Lt. John Crisci. "It's a living memory, a living tribute that will go on forever."

One of Crisci's three sons recited the Pledge of Allegiance to open the ceremony. Rep. Joseph Crowley, a Democrat who represents several Queens neighborhoods including Woodside, remembered his firefighter cousin John Moran.

Crowley said Moran's body has not been recovered from the rubble. However, trees were planted for him in Ireland and by friends in Israel, he said.

The congressman said the trees represent rebirth and a new beginning. Nevertheless, he said the pain of Sept. 11 will be long remembered.

"If you take my cousin John Moran and multiply him by three thousand, that's what we lost on Sept. 11," Crowley said.

The tree planting was organized by the National Tree Trust, which promotes tree planting in local communities and along highways.

Champion trees are among the largest and oldest in their species. The red and green ash trees are genetic duplicates of the giant trees that go back 300 years, according to the National Tree Trust.

"Trees are a fitting tribute to the men and women, fathers and mothers, heroes and friends who died last fall," said Richard Keefe, president of the trust.

"Nature provides a constant life cycle that reassures us and offers a sense of peace."

The trees were shipped from Michigan, where they were genetically duplicated. The ones planted in the cemetery averaged about 10 feet tall.

Lucy Virgilio, who lost her firefighter son, Lawrence, of Squad 18, said the trees were an appropriate way to remember the victims.

She said her son, who was born and reared in Woodside, often visited the cemetery, which offers a clear view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan skylines.

Her husband and other family members also are buried at Calvary, a Catholic cemetery operated by the Archdiocese of New York.

"It's a memorial that will go on for years and years, and my son was always in the cemetery," she said. "He was always walking through it and stopping at gravesites of people he knew."