Unbeknownst to many, there is an old, withering tree in the city of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, that remains standing nearly 13 years after miraculously saving the lives of eight residents after they climbed its branches to escape an impending tsunami following the March 2011 earthquake.

Keiko Onodera, 62, a local resident who lost her father to the disaster, has written a story that frames the life-saving Japanese zelkova tree as a hero to teach people about the tsunami, triggered by the mega-earthquake, that wrought destruction on the community.

The tree is said to have been planted on a bluff that juts out over the Pacific Ocean called Asahizaki in the wake of the 1896 Sanriku earthquake, which occurred off the country's Pacific coast in the Tohoku region and resulted in two huge tsunamis decimating thousands of homes, causing over 20,000 deaths.