Students, faculty and staff placed colorful flags at the Ambler Campus in tribute to the trees lost during the September 1 tornado.
James Duffy

By Baldev Lamba, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, Tyler School of Art and Architecture

"Trees exhale for us so that we can inhale them to stay alive. Can we ever forget that? Let us love trees with every breath we take until we perish." — Munia Khan

"Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky." — Kahlil Gebran

The tornado on Wednesday, September 1, brought its full fury to Ambler Campus and in a matter of minutes, wiped out many of the canopy trees and their poetry — the heart and soul of the campus landscape.

The tragic loss left us with a feeling of disbelief, shock, and helplessness — a punch in the gut of Temple Ambler community. The campus felt naked, exposed and barren. The beloved trees, a source of refuge and renewal, provided comfort and protection and reminded us of the changing of seasons.   

When we experience a tragedy and loss, our natural impulse is to seek comfort in the companionship of family and friends and our community where we feel safe to express our feelings and listen to stories and memories from others — hug, cry and laugh — shedding some of the stress.

The second impulse is do something that might help in our collective healing while also building a sense of community.

In my conversations with my students, we shared our thoughts and ideas about what the trees meant to us and how to come to terms with the profound loss. We went out to identify the trees and estimated their ages by counting the rings that marked their age, which was in the 60-year range. We read poems and passages to give words for how we felt about the loss. This simple gesture of gratitude helped the healing process.

We also wanted to do something tangible to mark, remember and celebrate the memory of these trees.

The result, the pop-up installation is a tribute to the trees lost on campus during the September 1 tornado. The tribute is designed to help with the healing process and bring the community together.  

The installation, located outside the Ambler Learning Center, consists of colorful flags placed by students, faculty and staff, representing or recalling the fall colors we would have experienced at Temple Ambler this season.  

This colorful pop-up installed is meant to bring a smile in our hearts and transform a tragedy into an expression of beauty and hope. Trees, symbols of life on earth, have so much to teach us and enrich our lives without any expectations in return.

If the Trees Could Talk  
By Ilan Shamir

Dear Friend,
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!