In other parts of the park, people walked their dogs through trails, children skipped rocks on the pond and rangers emptied trash bins unless the racoons had already done it. They would hide out sometimes, lurking in the shadows, waiting for sundown until they could come out and scavenge. They were there that night, watching as the tree went up in flames, scurrying into the woods to avoid the screeching sirens and flurry of men in uniforms. But none could save the tree and what they found.
Not far from the site, covered in soot, rambling she stood. First reports were that she was strung-out and deranged, like she always appeared but it was far from the truth. It had been that park, that tree, many years passed but she never forgot while everyone else seemed to. Haunted and stuck, like a ghost who didn't know they'd passed into the afterlife, her memory clung to that horrible afternoon while her life whirled by. One of the officers remembered but couldn't offer her anything that time and space might have created but never did. It was too late for his institutions to offer help when it had failed so miserably the first time. Instead, the death of the tree forever changed the landscape of the place and now she wouldn't have to remember. There was no longer a tree there, and that empty space could hold something different.
After the place was cleared, they decided to put a bench up and plant some new trees, to infuse some new life into the area and a new purpose. But the ground refused to accept that. The first few trees died and they were forever replanting. But when these last trees were planted, and lived, it was as if the ground wanted something else. A place for everyone to remember what had happened here, not to remain in sadness but as a testament to what happens when we try to forget and move on when we've left someone else behind.