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City of Little Rock marks first anniversary of March 31 tornado with tree planting

Little Rock officials and Walnut Valley residents plant 9/11 Survivor Memorial Seedling
Maggie Ryan
Little Rock Public Radio
Little Rock officials and Walnut Valley residents plant a seedling gifted by the 9/11 Survivor Tree Seedling Program.

Residents impacted by the tornado that devastated communities in Little Rock on March 31, 2023 gathered to commemorate the event on Saturday. City officials and volunteers came to Walnut Valley Neighborhood Park to plant a tree gifted by the 9/11 Survivor Tree Seedling Program.

Capi Peck is a restaurant owner and sits on the city board of directors. Peck represents Ward 4, which includes Walnut Valley. She highlighted how the recovery process has been slow for many tornado victims.

“I know there have been a lot of frustrations specifically in this neighborhood and the other areas in the tornado’s path that the city doesn’t care. Well, the city does care, but there’s a lot of red tape and bureaucracy as you know because we’ve all encountered it.”

Peck also highlighted how the community suffered after the damage was done. She said many residents were robbed in the weeks following the devastation.

“Anything that was not bolted down was stolen,” Peck said.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. thanked the volunteers and emergency responders who stepped in to help the community in the tornado’s aftermath, but also acknowledged there is more to be done.

“We wanted to demonstrate to you that you are not forgotten and that we will continue to do whatever is possible to take things to the next level. What that means is even thinking about new creative ideas because we also understand that housing is an issue in the city of Little Rock, particularly affordable housing.”

Scott said he wants to continue working with residents throughout the recovery process.

The commemoration ended with the planting of a Callery Pear seedling gifted by the 9/11 Survivor Tree Seedling Program. Three communities that have faced a recent tragedy receive seedlings each year. The city of Waukesha, Wis., and Uvalde Memorial Hospital in Uvalde, Texas were also chosen to receive seedlings for 2023.

Mayor Scott said planting the seedling in Walnut Valley is a reminder of the city’s commitment to rebuilding the community.

“The reason why we want to plant it right here not any other place is because we want to show a sign of rebirth, we want to show a sign of rebuilding, but also a sign of renewal,” he said. “Renewal means it's not just being new, but reinvigorating what’s already inside.”

Maggie Ryan is a reporter and local host of All Things Considered for Little Rock Public Radio.