Arlington National Cemetery is home to over 8600 trees, the oldest of which is 300 years old, and is named “Taft Oak,” as it can be found by the former president’s grave. There are 36 Medal of Honor trees, dedicated to American icons, soldiers, presidents, and battlefields, along with an additional 142 memorial trees, which bear a variety of dedications. The cemetery recently received a Level II arboretum accreditation for meeting certain standards, such as having a wide variety of trees that are maintained and actively managed. Its accreditation ensures a plan for continued sustainability, especially if it’s to keep its accolade.
One tree, Tree #144, is dedicated to victims of terrorism. It is a Southern Magnolia and can be found in section 55. Tree #129, a Tulip Tree, is dedicated to African Embassy Bombing Victims and can be found in section 51. Tree #4, a Cedar-of-Lebanon, is dedicated to Beirut victims of terrorism. It can be found in section 59.
Taken together, these three trees encapsulate the lives of thousands of Americans, to say nothing of all victims of terrorism–none of the trees specify American victims.
Tree #129, dedicated to African Embassy Bombing Victims, refers to the bombings in 1998 in Nairobi, Kenya, where 213 were killed, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where 11 were killed. Over 4500 people were wounded. Tree #4, dedicated to Beirut victims of terrorism, refers to multiple attacks, the deadliest of which was the 1983 bombing against the U.S. and French armed forces, which killed 229 people.
It’s clear that memorial trees carry significant symbolic heft. Not only are trees #129 and #4 dedicated to all who perished in attacks, they also do not distinguish nationality or place of birth. Along with being symbols of remembrance, these trees are symbols of inclusion. Terrorism recognizes no border; neither does solidarity.