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Flowers of Remembrance Bloom in New York City - 2002-04-25


More than a million yellow flowers planted in memory of the victims of the September 11 attacks are in bloom this spring in New York City. The daffodil project, which is helping New York move beyond the attacks, was a collaborative effort. The flowers were donated by a Dutch bulb-grower and planted by New York park-lovers.

Some of them are scented. Some of them are not. This is a late blooming one, and it is still blooming.

Lynden Miller is looking after the daffodils in New York's Central Park.

She and 10,000 other volunteers were eager to help New York in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks by beautifying the city. In this spirit, they started planting the perennial bulbs last October.

After the ground started to thaw, eight varieties of daffodils, most of them yellow, the color of remembrance, sprung up everywhere. They could be seen in 750 parks, large and small, in front of fire stations, which had lost firefighters in the attacks, and in mini-gardens along City sidewalks.

The story behind the daffodil project began on the morning of September 12. Mrs. Miller, head of an advocacy group called "New Yorkers for Parks," received a fax from a friend in Holland. Dutch bulb-grower Hans van Waardenburg wrote that he was heartbroken, and wanted to do something for New York. "I looked out the window at my beloved wounded city," she said, "and thought what can we do to make people feel good again, and also to highlight and help the parks of New York? So, I said to Hans, I have got an idea, Hans. You do not have any extra bulbs, do you?"

Hans van Waardenburg came up with half-a-million daffodil bulbs. Initially, he wanted to donate tulips. But because in New York City, squirrels feast on tulips, he sent daffodils instead.

Then, the city ordered half-a-million more daffodils. Mr. van Waardenburg scoured his warehouse floor and provided those bulbs too, paid for by the city of Rotterdam, Holland. New York, once known as New Amsterdam, was a Dutch colony until 1664. Now, more than 300 years later, Holland is helping the city blossom.

Private groups donated another 500,000 bulbs for a total of 1.5 million daffodils. Mrs. Miller said that the flowers have lifted spirits even in parks and gardens that were previously neglected. "The symbolism was all there," she said. "New York would bloom again. We were doing something to beautify this wonderful city and give people something to look forward to in the sense that New York would come out whole again as much as possible."

Mr. van Waardenburg says he is not finished with his project. He envisions a yellow ribbon of daffodils throughout the City for all New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy. "My goal," he said, "is to add each and every year a few hundred thousand daffodils to the already one million daffodils. Daffodils naturalize and they multiply also. So, if you add a few hundred thousand each year then, before you know it, New York is going to be the daffodil capital of the United States."

The petals of late-blooming daffodils are beginning to wilt in the parks, which provided communal space for personal solace and candlelight vigils in the days and weeks after the attacks. Soon, the stems will start to turn yellow.

Children on a class trip visit a Central Park garden, where thousands of daffodils have bloomed.

And Mrs. Miller works with a team of volunteer gardeners, preparing the next cycle of flowers. "For city people to have a connection with nature is a very exciting thing. And for the 10,000 people who actually planted them and the millions who have enjoyed them, this connection [is] with nature, with spring, with the fact that the seasons change and nature is still there to make us feel renewed and have hope."

This year, the blossoms were cut-shot by unusually warm weather. But next spring, the daffodils will multiply and bloom again all over the city, in what has become a permanent and perennial memorial for the victims of September 11.

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