After nearly nine years, life is returning to ground zero in a tangible way.
Sixteen swamp white oaks are the first of nearly 400 trees arriving on Saturday at the World Trade Center site, where more than 2,700 people were killed when terrorists attacked the twin towers. Eventually the green sanctuary will dot a cobblestone plaza surrounding two huge pools built on the footprints of the destroyed towers.
"After all the tragedy, the idea of the first living component going back is emotionally significant to the rebuilding process," said Tom Cox, CEO of Environmental Design, the Houston company that has cared for the trees and is taking them to the trade center site.
Cultivated for four years at a New Jersey nursery, the 16 trees were being loaded onto eight tractor-trailers at midnight Friday for the 35-mile (56-kilometer) trip to Manhatan. Cranes were to set them into place Saturday morning before crews plant them on the eight-acre memorial plaza.
Joe Daniels, president of the memorial foundation, called the trees' arrival "a big milestone ... after nine years of both recovery and construction."
Designers Peter Walker and Michael Arad envisioned a peaceful, green space that would bring solace to Sept. 11 victims' families and visitors. Benches will invite visitors to linger and walk along its cobblestone and stone pavers accented with plantings and low ground cover.