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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Good things grow from 9-11

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

A koa tree on the Big Island. A pua kenikeni outside an O'ahu fire station. A small forest of coconut palms and beach heliotropes on Magic Island.

And on the Mainland, from coast to coast, trees of all varieties are growing in memory of Christine Snyder, nurtured by people who never knew the Kailua arborist, but who were moved by her death on Sept. 11.

They are telling gifts, says her good friend, Mary Steiner, who worked with Snyder every day for more than six years. Steiner is chief executive officer for The Outdoor Circle, the nonprofit environmental organization in which the 32-year-old Snyder served as a landscape and project manager.

In the weeks after her friend died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a Pennsylvania field, Steiner has been witness to a steady tribute of trees.

"It just goes to show the warmth and the feeling that she was able to pull out of people," Steiner said. "I've always known that about her. She was really great at being able to get people to feel the way she felt."

Steiner and Snyder had attended a national urban forestry conference in Washington, D.C., just prior to Sept. 11, and the people they met there began planting trees soon after Snyder's death.

Steiner has kept many of the e-mailed notices about the plantings. She read from one that was sent by the Tree Musketeers of El Segundo, Calif.:

"I think it is safe to say that all of us are aching for a way to respond and be part of America's recovery."

Steiner doesn't think this will stop any time soon.

"It is something you know she would love," she said. "Chris loved trees more than anything and wanted people to understand the beauty and importance of them."

The trees on Magic Island were planted in November by 240 volunteers. It was the second half of a project begun several years ago when Snyder planted trees on the Diamond Head side, Steiner said.

Snyder had said she would begin organizing the project when she returned from Washington, D.C.

"We did it for her," Steiner said. "We knew that was what she really wanted."

The Outdoor Circle planted 75 trees on the 'Ewa side of the island.

"It's just beautiful," she said. "It has changed the face of Magic Island."

But there are smaller tributes, individual trees in unlikely places such as outside the 'Aikahi Park fire station, where the Kane'ohe Outdoor Circle planted a pua kenikeni tree.

This was Snyder's neighborhood, Steiner said, so it seemed a fitting place for a new tree.

The firefighters have been taking care of it with special fertilizer.

"It fits nicely," said firefighter David Jenkins. "It looks like it will do well."

Some of them see it and are reminded of what happened on Sept. 11, and some of them see only a beautiful tree, he said.

Firefighter Tyson Ikehara, who joined the station in October, agrees.

"It's a reminder whenever I see it," Ikehara said. "It makes you think."

Like Jenkins, he didn't know Snyder.

But he likes the tree.

Christine Snyder probably wouldn't mind.

Reach Mike Gordon at mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8012.