Sierra Leone’s national symbol, the Cotton Tree, has fallen due to heavy rains in the capital city. The tree, which stood 70 meters tall and 15 meters wide, had been a landmark for centuries and was a physical embodiment of the country’s national story. It was a symbol of liberty and freedom for early settlers and was visited by Queen Elizabeth II to mark Sierra Leone’s independence from British colonial rule in 1961. The tree appeared on the country’s banknotes and was celebrated in children’s nursery rhymes. Locals say that when formerly enslaved Africans returned from the United States in the late 1700s, they gathered under its branches to offer prayers in their new home, which they called Freetown. The loss of the Cotton Tree has left “a gap” in people’s hearts, according to President Julius Maada Bio. Sierra Leone is among the countries most impacted by climate change, with heavy rains causing a landslide that killed over 1,000 people in 2017. Despite the loss of the Cotton Tree, Bio hopes to keep its history alive by preserving it in museums and other public spaces.