Not far from Route 66, in a Yukon neighborhood, a piece of history grows.
For more than a decade, Roger Kissner and his wife, Martha, have tended to a tree grown from the Survivor Tree, an American elm that withstood the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.
“It was about this big when we got it,” Kissner said, holding his hands roughly a foot apart. “I don’t remember the exact year we got it, but my granddaughter was 6 or 8 years old when we planted it, and she’s 19 now.”
Kissner’s granddaughter, Gabrielle Kissner, helped him plant the tree.
Now at least 30 feet tall, it towers over the house.
According to information from the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, the Survivor Tree became an iconic symbol of hope and resiliency following the 1995 bombing, which killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.
Kissner remembers that day well.
He was about two blocks from the Murrah Building, in a restaurant.
“It shook everything around us,” he said. “I saw smoke coming up from the Murrah Building.”
Kissner took out his cell phone to call his boss, he said, when a man approached him.
“This guy walked up to me,” he said. “He looked like he had little pieces of glass all over him. He was from the social security office in the building, and he wanted to use my phone to call his wife and tell her he was all right.”
But the phone lines were already jammed, Kissner said. So Kissner gave the man a ride to Moore, and by the time he returned to downtown Oklahoma City, it was inaccessible.
When Kissner learned that Survivor Tree saplings were being given out at the memorial museum, he knew he wanted one.
“I thought it would be a neat tree to have,” he said.
For about a year, the tree lived in a pot, until the Kissners were sure it could survive a winter.
Since then, other than losing a couple limbs to ice, the tree has thrived.
“I love it,” Martha said. “I think it’s an amazing tree.”
Now, the Kissners have given away a few saplings of their own. Even in October, tiny leaf-tipped branches sprouted from the ground surrounding the tree.
The family indicated that, if they ever decided to move, they’d make sure the new resident knew the importance of the tree.
“It’s something to be proud of,” Roger said.