Image: Queen Elizabeth II of England lays a wreath as she pays tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks during a visit to ground zero
Timothy A. Clary  /  AFP - Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II of England lays a wreath as she pays tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks during a visit to ground zero in New York on Tuesday.
updated 7/6/2010 8:54:12 PM ET 2010-07-07T00:54:12

Queen Elizabeth II spoke to the United Nations about stopping global dangers, then paid tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with a wreath at ground zero and a ceremony honoring British victims in her first visit to New York in more than 30 years.

The 84-year-old British monarch turned her eyes toward the future of the World Trade Center: new skyscrapers rising at what was once smoldering debris that had buried loved ones forever.

"We are not here to reminisce," she told the world body earlier Tuesday. "In tomorrow's world, we must all work together as hard as ever if we are truly to be United Nations."

Not even a record high temperature of 102 degrees, accompanied by a heat advisory, kept the monarch from New York's hallowed ground.

She arrived at the 16-acre site in lower Manhattan late Tuesday afternoon with her husband, Prince Philip. They moved slowly down a sloping, wooden walkway that reaches deep over the construction site, with huge cranes hovering overhead stopped and workers on a break for the queen's visit.

In silence, Elizabeth laid a wreath of flowers on an iron pedestal near the footprint of the trade center's south tower. Bowing her head, she gently brushed her gloved hand against the locally grown red peonies, roses, lilies, black-eyed Susans and other summer blossoms.

Then the queen faced dozens of family members and first responders who had lost loved ones as the twin towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.

"The queen "just was asking me about that day, and how awful it must've been," said Debbie Palmer, whose husband, battalion Fire Chief Orio Palmer, was killed. "She said, 'I don't think I've ever seen anything in my life as bad as that. And I said, 'Let's hope we never do again.'"

Palmer said of the monarch: "She's beautiful. She looks like she could be anybody's grandmother."

The queen wore a two-piece white, blue and beige print dress with long sleeves and a matching brimmed champagne-colored silk hat with flowers.

"There was not a drop of sweat on her face! I don't think royalty sweats," joked Nile Berry, 17, son of securities analyst David S. Berry, who died in the south tower, leaving behind three sons.

"I think she understood" the significance of meeting victims' relatives, Nile told The Associated Press, adding that it would take him a while to "digest" that he had met the queen.

Elizabeth left the site in a motorcade to tour the British Garden of Remembrance, built to honor the 67 Britons killed in the attack. She met their families there.

Tim Rosen, who called himself a "fan of the queen," was angling for a glimpse of her at the corner of ground zero. "She's been through a lot," said the 30-year-old attorney. "She has a certain sense of duty that I like. A very elegant woman."

"There she is!" Patricia Farmer, a real estate project manager, shouted when she spotted her near the garden. "The one in the blue!"

Farmer, who said she was born in northern Ireland, called Elizabeth "my queen."

But not everyone was so enthused. Roman Shusterman held a sign near ground zero that read, "Queen of British Petroleum," the British company whose rig explosion in Louisiana created the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

"The queen hasn't said anything about it because she thinks she's too good for us," said Shusterman, 28.

Earlier Tuesday, Elizabeth's familiar formality graced the lectern at the United Nations, where she urged the world body to spearhead an international response to global dangers, while promoting prosperity and dignity for the world's inhabitants.

"It has perhaps always been the case that the waging of peace is the hardest form of leadership of all," she said, while praising the U.N. for promoting peace and justice.

  1. Click here for related content
    1. NYC anglophiles aflutter ahead of queen's visit
    2. Toronto hit by blackout during queen's visit
    3. Cost of the queen: less than $1 per person a year

Speaking as queen of 16 U.N. member states and head of a commonwealth of 54 countries with a population of nearly 2 billion people, Elizabeth recalled the dramatic changes in the world since she last visited the United Nations in 1957, especially in science, technology and social attitudes.

"In my lifetime, the United Nations has moved from being a high-minded aspiration to being a real force for common good," Elizabeth told diplomats from the 192 U.N. member states. "That of itself has been a signal achievement."

But she also praised the U.N.'s aims and values — promoting peace, security and justice; fighting hunger, poverty and disease; and protecting the rights and liberties of every citizen — which have endured.

"For over six decades the United Nations has helped to shape the international response to global dangers," the queen said. "The challenge now is to continue to show this clear ... leadership while not losing sight of your ongoing work to secure the security, prosperity and dignity of our fellow human beings."

Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, flew to New York from Canada for the five-hour visit and planned to leave for London later Tuesday.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Queen Elizabeth takes brief bite of Big Apple

  1. Transcript of: Queen Elizabeth takes brief bite of Big Apple

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: New York City tonight hosted the Queen of England. It's her first visit in 34 years; and while here she did something she hasn't done in over half a century, she spoke to the General Assembly of the United Nations . And that is where NBC 's normally London-based Stephanie Gosk is tonight, with more on today's royal visit . Stephanie , good evening.

    STEPHANIE GOSK reporting: Good evening, Brian . Well, Her Majesty the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh , did not linger long in New York City 's triple-digit heat. Their trip, their brief trip, lasted just under five hours. The first stop was here at the United Nations , where Secretary-General Ban Ki -moon noted that the British monarch 's reign has spanned from The Beatles to Beckham . The queen shared the wisdom gained in nearly 60 years as monarch to a standing room only crowd in the General Assembly hall .

    Queen ELIZABETH: It has perhaps always been the case that the waging of peace is the hardest form of leadership of all.

    GOSK: It wasn't the queen's first visit there. She gave her first speech at the young age of 31 in 1957 . During a return trip to New York in 1976 , Her Majesty was given a tour of the Hudson River , the Twin Towers standing in the background. Today she visited the site where those towers fell and placed a wreath on ground zero. At their final stop, the queen opened officially the British Garden of Remembrance . It's a memorial, Brian , to the 67 British citizens that were killed on 9/11.

    WILLIAMS: Stephanie Gosk at the UN tonight. Steph , thanks for that.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments