Natick police: trees honoring teacher who died cut down on school grounds

NATICK, Mass. — Natick police are investigating after five trees that had been planted at an elementary school in honor of a teacher who died were cut down late last month.

On May 29, Meredith Hanson was notified by a neighbor that the young trees at Bennett-Hemenway Elementary School had been chopped down.

Hanson took a look for herself and called police.

“I think it’s very distressing… Of course, they were all laying down on the ground. And we were all very upset,” Hanson said. “It was a deliberate cut, and they had to use something quite sharp. So, it had to be a lopper or a saw.”

Hanson walked around the property and found tools tossed aside by a shed against the school.

“There were the loppers and the pruners on the floor,” Hanson said. “And the loppers were a substantial size that they could cut those trees down. And they still had bark in them.”

The trees had been donated by elementary school students in honor of fourth-grade teacher Ms. Catie O’Brien who died of cancer in 2019.

While community members wonder why anyone would vandalize school property, they hope whoever cut down the trees did not know their significance.

Mary Rossini, a mother of two Bennett-Hemenway students, said she plans to talk to her kids about the incident.

“Talk about empathy toward people making wrong choices and why this is happening,” Rossini said. “It’s sad to think about the motivation behind the person [who] did it.”

Meanwhile, neighbors and school families are working on plans to replant the trees and keep Ms. O’Brien’s memorial going for years to come.

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