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Kissena Park 9/11 tribute to flower come September

A sapling planted in Kissena Park in tribute to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks will have its white blossoms ready to console the community in time for the second anniversary of the attacks this fall.

The Franklinia tree, named for founding father Benjamin Franklin and planted by the Kissena Park Civic Association last summer, blooms in September, a fitting and living memorial to those who died and those who survived the fall of the World Trade Center, board member Beverly McDermott said at a dedication ceremony Saturday.

"All of them saw too much and suffered too much to ever be the same," said Mary Hogan, president of the Kissena Park Civic Association. "All of us suffered too much."

The park association decided to plant the tree as a way for the community to say thank you to the emergency workers as well as a way to remember the attacks, Hogan said. The tree sits just inside the park's entrance at Rose Avenue and Parsons Boulevard in Flushing, and it is surrounded by an iron fence, wild flowers and pansies.

A granite plaque in front of the tree bears the inscription "dedicated to valor in the face of evil" as part of a message of gratitude to the emergency personnel who responded to the attacks.

"Future generations will see it touched the lives of everyone in their own community," said state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), who attended the ceremony. "While there were thousands who perished there, there were 10 times that who were saved by those individuals who are commemorated on this plaque."

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who grew up playing tennis on the courts that are just yards from the sapling, said the park association chose a perfect spot for the tree.

"There is no place better to erect this memorial and plant this tree," he said. "It's a reminder of the tragedy and heroism the world witnessed among New Yorkers."

The tree also represents the triumph of New York over evil, said state Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik (D-Flushing).

"This memorial is about life," he said. "Whenever you see trees, you see life. We believe in life, and this tree is a symbol of that. This tree will probably outlive many of us."

And the white flowers that emerge in the fall will be a touching tribute, said Fire Department Lt. Richard Smulczeski, of Engine 274 in Flushing.

"This is very apropos for Sept. 11 because it blooms white in September," he said. "I hope this will be something the children and the community will remember for a long time."

McDermott, the gardener of the Kissena Park Civic Association, hopes to create a red stone path to the tree and plant more colorful flowers around it to form a special memorial, she said.

"We wanted something where the community could come in and look at those blossoms and be a little uplifted."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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