Near the end of “The Shawshank Redemption,” Morgan Freeman’s character, Red, sits under a stately oak tree to read a letter from his friend, Andy, played by Tim Robbins.
“Remember, Red,” the letter said. “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
The oak had remained one of the enduring images from the 1994 prison-escape film. Fans had flocked by the thousands every year to the tree, which stood in a private field in Lucas, Ohio, about halfway between Columbus and Cleveland. Now, many are grieving after heavy winds knocked over the oak on Friday.
“The tree symbolizes hope” to its many visitors, said Jodie Snavely, an official with the Mansfield/Richland Convention and Visitors Bureau. “When they can actually come and see that, it’s very touching to them, and it means a lot to them.”
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Officials do not know what the landowners will do with the tree or how long it will remain on its side, but Snavely said it is likely to be removed since the owners farm around it. The owners do not let visitors onto the property; fans took photos of it from a nearby road.
Though the movie was set in Maine, most of it was filmed in Ohio. Local tourism officials advertise 14 filming locations for visitors, including the Ohio State Reformatory, otherwise known as Shawshank State Prison.
In the movie —spoiler alert! — Red visits the tree after being paroled and finds a buried package with cash and directions to meet up with Andy, who had escaped. Andy asked his love to marry him under the same tree.
It is not the first time the tree has been struck by calamity. Heavy winds tore about half of it off during a thunderstorm in 2011. Anyone who feels compelled to see a piece of the oak is not totally out of luck, though: The half that was torn off back then is on display at the prison, Snavely said.