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OKC’s Survivor Tree: A Symbol of Resilience


In the heart of downtown Oklahoma City, grows a symbol of hope and resilience that has gripped OKC’s community for more than 100 years. According to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum website, foresters believe that this American elm was likely planted around 1920. The elm tree started as one of several small trees in a residential backyard, growing larger throughout the years. At some point, the land was developed commercially, and even though all of the other trees were cleared to make a parking lot, this elm tree was somehow spared. Over the next several decades, the tree provided shade and beauty to an otherwise urban, concrete backdrop.

On that fateful day in 1995, this tree, which had seen so many changes in Oklahoma City, was about to see one that would change the course of history forever. April 19, 1995, a day that  started like any other, with that elm positioned directly across the street from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.That morning, the American people faced the most significant domestic terror attack in history, right here in OKC. According to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, “the tree was completely exposed to the full force of the 4,000-pound bomb that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more”. After the attack, what was left of the severely damaged tree was to be cut down so agents could retrieve forensic evidence embedded in its trunk. However, like Oklahoma City, it survived and has been a symbol to the people of Oklahoma ever since.

Since April 19, 1995, the tree and the city have not only survived but thrived. What little was left of the century-old elm has since grown and thrived and is a focal point of OKC’s Downtown and the Memorial itself. Today, it symbolizes the Oklahoma City community’s strength, hope, and prosperity. Arborists from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry help the Oklahoma City National Memorial staff care for the tree.

“The Survivor Tree has become a beacon of hope, and its roots have grown deep into the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the fabric of this city.”

The Survivor Tree faced a different test in 2020, this time by a devastating ice storm. Many in the city woke up on October 27th to a tweet from the Memorial that read, “Memorial and OK State Forester Crews continue to work on the Survivor Tree this morning at the Memorial. We lost a branch but have propped up others to save them.” – Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. One factor that made this ice storm so powerful and unique is that it occurred so early in the season and most deciduous trees had not dropped their foliage, causing an overwhelming amount of weight on the ice covered trees. The historic ice storm left more than 300,000 Oklahomans without power and many with extensive damage to properties and homes. Oklahoma City Memorial and Oklahoma Forestry Services crews were scrambling to save the tree, and true to its resilient nature, the tree once again survived. 

2020 Ice Storm

BC Clark Jewelers knows a little bit about standing the test of time and surviving changes in the Oklahoma landscape. So when a BC Clark employee came to the Clarks with the idea of preserving the fallen wood in a William Henry knife, the idea was quickly presented to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and to William Henry. Once the branches were shipped to William Henry Studio in Oregon, its team went to work drying the wood and creating the final limited edition product – The Survivor Tree Knife.

The Knife

Creating this knife took months of planning, hard work, and dedication. The first step was to dry the wood that had been recovered. This process took place in a chamber where air circulation, relative humidity, and temperature could be controlled so that the moisture content of the wood could be reduced to a target point without having any drying defects. This process can take months to avoid any cracking or splintering of the wood. 

Next, William Henry stabilized the wood with epoxy resin. Once the wood was stabilized, it was sawn into small coupons for machining into the knife scales and shaped each by hand one at a time. Once shaped, the scales were buffed and polished, and the frames were etched to reveal the Damascus pattern. Finally, the button lock and thumb stud were set with citrine gemstones representing the rising and setting sun on either side of the Memorial. This unique handmade masterpiece is fashioned to last a lifetime and carry on the Oklahoma City National Memorial Survivor Tree’s legacy. 

Like BC Clark, William Henry holds a high standard for quality and excellence. Every product William Henry makes is a distinctive heirloom-quality testament to the art of handcrafted luxury goods. Each product takes up to 18 months to produce and incorporates the work of more than 30 artisans across 800 individual operations. The seamless integration of classic natural materials and state-of-the-art alloys is a signature of William Henry’s work — no compromises, no shortcuts, exceptional quality. This true testament to craftsmanship is why BC Clark was confident that William Henry could help them design and create a piece worthy of the legacy of the Survivor tree. 

These numbered, limited edition of 50, handcrafted knives featuring Damascus Steel are available at all three BC Clark stores for a limited time beginning on November 26, 2022. Each knife retails for $1,950 and for each knife sold, BC Clark will donate $500 to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, so they can continue their important mission of remembrance and education.

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