The long-awaited September 11 Memorial won't open at the World Trade Center site until September 11, 2011, but yesterday morning there were more signs of its progress as the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum and Port Authority planted the first Swamp White Oak trees that will surround the two reflecting pools. Director of design for the memorial and museum, Ron Vega, said, "Trees are about life. Trees are about renewal. You know when you plant a tree in someone’s name, it’s a moment of reflection and respect and here we are."

There will be over 400 trees planted at the site—the memorial, museum and the memorial plaza will comprise half of the 16 acre World Trade Center site. The trees have been growing in NJ since 2007: Currently, their average height is 30 feet—with leaf canopies between 18 and 20 feet wide—but they are expected to grow to 80 feet. The Port Authority also says a special cistern system was designed to help sustain the "urban forest" and the Memorial plaza, designed by Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architecture, "will have an open turf glade for events every September, and numerous benches."

Joe Daniels, president of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, further emphasized, "There was nothing here - it was a pit. To see trees is sort of saying that you can have life back here on the site." As for other progress at the site, much of the underground infrastructure work has been completed; One World Trade Center is now at 36 stories (it will have 105 total).

With contribution from Rachel Pincus