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Many Londoners and indeed Britons may not be aware of a beautiful wooden pergola and garden in Grosvenor Square that serves as the memorial to the British victims of the September 11, 2001 commercial aircraft hijackings and terror attacks in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Dedicated by the Princess Royal in 2003 on the anniversary of the tragedy, the garden contains flowers from North America and Britain, species that flower in September. There is a half-tonne steel girder from the ruins of One World Trade Center buried beneath the memorial.
Yesterday afternoon I attended the annual London service in the garden, as I do every year. A magnificent wreath from United States Ambassador to the Court of St James Woody Johnson, along with masses of flower arrangements, adorned the pergola. Although attendance and participation has always been restricted to British families of victims of 9/11 this year it was apparent that the rules had been relaxed, as one or two visitors were able to attend.
Every year I never cease to be moved by the survivors placing a large white rose on the memorial pavement but even more searing is the inscription on the pergola: ‘Grief is the price we pay for love.’
Members of grieving families recited the names of their departed loved ones followed by a moment of silence. I spoke to a father who had lost his son, 29, because he happened to have travelled to the Twin Towers as a journalist on that fateful day. Two young people told me they were five years old when they lost a parent. The litany of stories made all the more powerful the brutal fact that the majority of victims on that day were hard-working civilians arriving bright and early at their places of employment, toiling to support children, parents or siblings.
‘A garden for grief and hope’ best describes the memorial and once again I was grateful to be able to grieve for all of the victims - of all nationalities - and hope I can be there next year and in years to come.
Rest in peace.
Carol Gould is an author (Don’t Tread on me - anti-Americanism Abroad) and BBC political commentator from Philadelphia based in the UK.