By Nina Mandell
MANHATTAN — After nine years of political wrangling, discussions and setbacks, the 9/11 memorial welcomed its first trees early Saturday morning.
Sixteen swamp white oak trees were transported to Ground Zero and planted. The first batch is just a small fraction of the 400 trees that are expected to be planted at the World Trade Center site in memorial of the 9/11 attacks.
"After all the tragedy, the idea of the first living component going back is emotionally significant to the rebuilding process," Tom Cox, CEO of Environmental Design, the company that cared for the trees, told the Associated Press.
The Swamp White Oak trees will surround a cobblestone plaza surrounding two pools built at the site of the tragedy, according to the National September 11th Memorial website. The Memorial Plaza will cover a 70-foot below-ground building that houses a museum, a train station, and more that fill the Ground Zero.
Joe Daniels, president of the memorial foundation, told the AP the arrival of the trees is "a big milestone ... after nine years of both recovery and construction."
The trees come from Washington D.C., New York and Pennsylvania, to symbolize the three places the planes hit. They were grown for four years at a nursery in Millstone Township, N.J. The soil used to plant the trees in arrived back on July 20.
The trees will be watered using an underground irrigation system with tubes running to each individual one. Sensors near the roots will be used to monitor the trees soil and moisture temperatures, the New York Post reported.
"Our expectations are we will have 100 percent survival of the trees," Tom Cox, CEO of Environmental Design, told the Post.