Loved Ones Plant
Two Trees in
Memory Of Jessica
By Andrea Genovese Soares (April
||Two American basswood
trees were planted in the George Mason Memorial Grove today in memory of
Jessica Szymanski and Dana Wood, two members of the Class of 2002 who died
in a car accident earlier in the school year.
Relatives and friends of Dana and
Jessica turned out for the moving ceremony that was the focus of the school’s
annual recognition of Arbor Day. Middle school English teacher Cay Wiant,
who organizes the event each year, opened by saying that the participants
would be "remembering Jessica and Dana in a happy way" by planting the
trees that would be a testimony to their lives. Dozens of middle school
students who participate in the mentor/mentee program were present with
picnic lunches to underscore this emotion.
"We are planting two trees, but we
are also planting two stories," said David Eckert, chairman of the city’s
tree commission. The two basswood trees, with heart-shaped leaves, signified
much more as the students, staff, and family members placed mulch around
them. Some cried, others prayed and some remembered. Some just stood alone
and kept to themselves.
|Dana Wood’s aunt, Antoinette Johnston,
and her sister Tara remember Dana next to
the tree planted in her memory.
(All photos by Andrea Genovese Soares)
|Ana Rogers (right) and Aysha Twose
each other during the moving Arbor Day
|Dana Wood’s parents, Frank Wood
Marchelle Wood, take a moment next to the
tree planted in their daughter’s memory.
As Kathy Szymanski, mother of Jessica,
said, "It’s wonderful to have something of beauty to remember them by."
"Tragedies are occurring, and the
planting of these trees doesn’t take away the tragedy, but we are planting
to give hope to the future, a small voice for giving life," said Eckert.
|Mason principal Bob
Snee told those assembled that on behalf of the school community he thanked
Jessica and Dana for their "terrific lives" that they had shared with everyone
in the school. "Today we plant two living reminders of those lives as a
small token of our appreciation."
The remembrance of Dana and Jessica
was merged with the city’s annual celebration of Arbor Day. Every year
on Arbor Day trees are planted in the memory of people who have lived,
died, or otherwise made their impression on Falls Church. According to
Eckert, this tradition began in December of 1891, when a huge storm struck
the country and destroyed communities throughout America. In 20 minutes,
it devastated Falls Church homes, businesses, and stripped a local school,
the Jefferson Institute, of its roof. "It felt like the end of the world,"
So, that long-ago weekend, Falls
Church residents got together and, in two days, rebuilt the school’s roof.
After the Civil War and this storm, many people were discouraged and this
tradition brought them all together.
|Along with all the others gathered
Day, principal Bob Snee symbolically spread
earth and mulch on the two trees planted in
honor of Jessica Szymanski and Dana Wood.
Birdsy Northrop, a nationally known
activist, later came to Falls Church and convinced the people in a seminar
that they should celebrate Arbor Day in the spring by planting trees as
a sign of rebirth. "Arbor day has been a very important process for us
and we hope that wherever you go, you will take this with you," said Eckert..
Falls Church has had an important
history with Arbor Day. It was the first locality in Virginia to be designated
as "Tree City USA" and the second in the nation.
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