Crosby Elementary Principal Justin Vercher spoke first at the outdoor ceremony, addressing the half a dozen classes of Crosby students that quickly turned their loud excitement into respectful silence for their principal. Vercher spoke about how the new tree being planted represents hope for Crosby and for the hard hit Diamond Creek area. The Crosby theme this school year was "Pay It Forward", and the kids saw that happen first hand.
Mayor Darren Rozell happily talked to the kids, telling them, "We lost a lot of trees last summer and in the tornado, so I appreciate the Texas Trees Foundation for coming here to replace some of our trees. I am just really thankful that Crosby Elementary is still standing here." He told the students that someday they will be able to show their own kids the tree that was planted and see how much it has grown. Forney City Manager Brian Brooks and Assistant City Manager Gina Nash also attended the event before heading to the Gateway Bridge groundbreaking ceremony.
State Representative Lance Gooden was at the ceremony and he told the students, "Here in Forney we really want to take care of our trees and we need your help at Crosby...you are our future." The kids seemed to be thrilled with being addressed directly by the speakers and many were able to answer Texas Trees Foundation President Janette Monear when she asked them, "What do trees do for us?" The children raised their hands to say that trees provided paper and shade, and that they give us food and oxygen. Monear reminded them, "We can't get along without trees and trees can't get along without us!"
TXU Energy has donated and planted over 80,000 trees in Texas since 2002. They intend to donate and plant 600 trees in Forney, Lancaster, and Arlington in the areas that were hit by tornadoes. Because summer is not the ideal time to plant trees, they will be back to plant them in October and intend to bring more trees to Crosby as well as the Diamond Creek neighborhood. One small tree at the school is battered but standing tall outside the front of the school. It survived the tornado that took many other trees, as well as homes.
Betsy Orton of TTF said, "We lost over half a billion trees to the drought last summer in Texas. The tornadoes wiped out more trees and we want to help fix that." When asked why they chose Crosby Elementary to plant their first tree, Orton replied, "It is clearly an area that was affected by the tornadoes and the principal was very very supportive of our efforts." The students at Crosby seemed to have bounced back after enduring the scare of a tornado hitting so close to their campus. If the tree that was planted on May 10 is anywhere near as resilient as those students, it will be a fixture on the school campus for many years to come.