Bill Long Southern Tree Preservation, Harrah, Okla.

Photos Courtesy of Bill Long.

Bill Long

There’s an American elm in Oklahoma City, Okla., that survived a bomb blast on April 19, 1995. It’s the symbol of the pain, suffering and triumph experienced on that horrible day near the Murrah Federal Building.

I was privileged to prune this tree in December 2008; invited by Mark Bays, the state urban forester, with Patrick Bishop and Lance Bisden, staff for the OKC National Memorial. Mark has been in charge of the care of this tree for the memorial site since 1995. The tree not only survived the explosion, it also survived years of living in an asphalt parking lot prior to the event. It now has a raised walkway platform protecting the root system.

The elm is 39 inches in diameter at 54 inches above the soil line, with a 65-foot-wide canopy, and is 40 feet tall. The north scaffold branch was severed in 1996 (deadwood), and has since grown multiple 3 to 5-inch diameter sprouts.

Bill prunes the Survivor Tree.

The day we pruned, the weather was clear and cold as I unloaded my tools: a Stihl 192-T chain saw and manual pole saw with a razor-tooth bull blade, purchased at Latak Arborist Supply, Oklahoma City. Our goals were to prune mistletoe (pruning infested branches of .5 inch or less, or breaking off mistletoe stems on larger branches), crossers, deadwood, broken limbs and stubs (from a 2007 ice storm), raise the canopy for ease of walking under the north scaffold, lighten the weight and inspect decayed sites (some frass was found). I pruned while Mark pointed out target branches. This is one tree I didn’t want to prune excessively or leave poor branch collar cuts. Lance and Patrick cleaned up debris while directing visitor traffic away from the work zone. This tree was fairly easy to access with my ladder and limb-walking on the near-horizontal branches. So, the tree endured one more stress: my massive frame on its aged structure. We came to a stopping point, accomplished our goals and will do it again in two years.

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