The Stars and Stripes flew at half mast from the roof of the American Embassy. In the green square below, the families took turns to lay a single white rose in the Memorial Garden. The motto inscribed there reads “Grief is the Price we Pay for Love”. Underneath are the names of the 67 British citizens who died. It’s a simple, peaceful space, wreathed with wisteria and lilies, roses and rosemary.
As the families gathered, they added their tributes to the flowers already laid there. Some offerings were formal like the spray of white lilies from Cantor Fitzgerald, one of the firms which lost so many staff at the World Trade Center. Others were more basic but heartfelt – a single rose in a plastic water bottle, sitting on an envelope marked “To the People of America”.
The families sat in rows of white chairs. They shared prayers, poetry, music and memories. Wreaths were laid by the US Ambassador, the Prime Minister, and Prince Charles – who spoke of the “continuing, awful agony” suffered by those bereaved.
What did it mean for the families? Rob Halligan, who lost his father Bob Halligan on the 99th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, told me how much quiet time he has spent in this garden over the years.
But he also said this. “After ten years, many of the families want to be able to move forward. They’re not forgetting. They’ll never forget. But they don’t want to be defined by 9/11 for ever.”