Many suggestions were made for the type of permanent memorial that would be appropriate for the victims of September 11. The relatives of those who died felt strongly that a garden would provide somewhere tranquil where they could come and remember – especially important in these circumstances as the majority do not have a grave to visit. Furthermore, it would symbolise new life and the opportunity to begin to look forward.
Grosvenor Square is one of London’s finest garden squares and is home to the US embassy. In addition, the United States has many significant historical associations with the square. It has come to be known as the ‘American Square’, and housed General Eisenhower’s headquarters during the Second World War. Eisenhower is commemorated by a statue outside the US Embassy. Within the square’s boundary and on its northern edge is a memorial to President Roosevelt, and on its southern edge facing Roosevelt is a memorial to the Eagle Squadron pilots of World War Two. After the events of September 11, many people gathered at the square because of its links with America and laid flowers and candles at the Roosevelt Memorial. It was therefore felt that this square was the most appropriate place for a memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks.
An oak pergola frames the rear half of the garden, providing a shady seating area for visitors. Each column of the pergola has been carved from a single green oak. At the centre of the pergola sits a small pavilion. On the front face of the pavilion are three bronze plaques listing the names of those from the United Kingdom, UK Overseas Territories and dual nationals who lost their lives. Richard Kindersley, who was responsible for the inscriptions for the memorial gates on Constitution Hill in London and the memorial to the victims of Dunblane, has designed the plaques.
The paving is a sawn finish York stone. This stone is warm in colour and is highly durable. At the centre of the paved area, set into the ground, sits a stone plaque that forms a universal memorial to all those who lost their lives. It bears the text of the poem “For Katrina’s Sun-dial” by Henry Van Dyke, which begins “Time is too slow for those who wait”. This poem, which is particularly important to the UK families was read at the first memorial service at Westminster Abbey in November 2001 by Judi Dench, and again as part of the first anniversary memorial service at St. Paul’s Cathedral by Sophie Brandt of the Red Cross. Richard Kindersley has also designed it. Preserved in resin and resting beneath this stone is a section of steel girder from World Trade Center One, which was kindly donated to the garden by the New York Mayor’s Office.
Two planting beds containing a mixture of shrubs and herbaceous plants frame the entrance to the garden. Set out informally, the plants will provide scent and colour throughout the year, with a special focus on mid-September to mark the anniversary of the event. The plants will have special significance – for example, they may be drawn from the species which were included within the Queen’s bouquet and floral arrangements at the 29 November 2001 service at Westminster Abbey or the 1st anniversary service at St Paul’s Cathedral; or they may originate from North America; or have a symbolic value, such as Rosemary (which symbolises remembrance).
White Roses have a special significance for the UK families of those who died. The white Bianca Rose formed part of HM The Queen’s bouquet at the Westminster Abbey service, and it was this rose that each family laid, in an Act of Remembrance for their loved one, on the innocent victims memorial outside the Abbey. At the St. Paul’s first anniversary service over 3,000 white rose petals, one for each victim, cascaded from the Whispering Gallery to the Altar below. It is therefore fitting that white roses should form a significant part of the planting within the memorial garden.
Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal has very kindly agreed to open the memorial garden on the afternoon of 11 September 2003. On a recent visit to the United States Her Royal Highness presented David Lindley, the Consul-General in New York, a wooden box containing seeds of flowers that would have featured in William III’s Privy Garden and Henry VIII’s Tudor Garden at Hampton Court Palace for the planned British Memorial Garden in New York. Her Royal Highness also visited The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to look at the future plans for the Ground Zero site and the tributes left in the Relatives’ Room.
The opening ceremony will be attended by 768 invited guests – the vast majority of whom are drawn from the families of the 67 UK victims and the 18 families with close UK connections.
The Hon William S Farish, the American Ambassador to the Court of St James’s will lead those present in a minute’s silence to remember those who lost their lives. Many of the readings will have strong personal connections for the families, having been read at earlier memorial services. We are delighted that Dame Judi Dench has once more kindly agreed to read one of the chosen poems – “Remember” by Christina Rosetti.
The music for the ceremony will be provided by the Thoresby Colliery Band, one of the leading Royal Parks bands. They will play a selection of traditional music from the British Isles as well as a couple of American pieces, one of which, “Catskills” has particular connections with New York State.
The key moment within the ceremony will be the Act of Remembrance, which takes place towards the end of the 30-minute ceremony. Each family has been asked to nominate a representative who will be given a single Bianca rose, tied with a red, white and blue ribbon, to lay on the memorial stone in honour of their loved one. This has clear echoes back to the moving act of remembrance at the first memorial service at Westminster Abbey.
On this occasion, HRH the Princess Royal will lay the first rose and then invite the family members forward to do the same. The final rose will be laid by New York Firefighter Jim Kerwin, from Ladder 33 – whose British colleague, Keithroy Maynard died on September 11.
Many of the companies who lost valued employees on September 11th have donated generously to the construction of this garden to ensure that their colleagues are not forgotten. ‘The Royal Parks Foundation’, a charitable trust, is handling the contributions and can be contacted via the company secretary Sara Lom, Company Secretary, Royal Parks Foundation, Old Police House, Hyde Park, London W2 2UH. So far the Foundation has received contributions from Mr Lee Amaitis & Mr Howard Lutnick, Accenture, Avid Technology, Bloomberg, The Boeing Company, ICAP plc, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer Limited, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Teradyne Inc, UBS and it expects to receive many more.
Michael Spencer, CEO of ICAP plc said “ ICAP is privileged to be involved in the development of the September 11 Memorial Garden. Many of our colleagues were directly affected by the events of 11 September. This garden will provide a tranquil and beautiful space in the heart of the "American Square" in which to remember."
Duncan Grant, Vice President at JPMorgan said “JPMorgan are proud to be associated with this fitting tribute to all those who lost their lives in the tragic events of September 11th. The Memorial Garden will be a quiet space in the heart of London to remember our friends and colleagues.”
Olivier Brandicourt, Chairman of Pfizer UK said “ Our company’s headquarters is in New York, and many of our employees were deeply affected by the tragedy of September 11. Two of them lost their lives in the attacks and many others lost friends or loved ones. The world must never forget what happened and it is only right that we should honour those who died in this way. We are proud to be associated with the Memorial Garden and we hope that it will bring some comfort, however small, to the bereaved.”
Major contributors will feature in a Limited Edition photographic “Commemorative Book” which is being produced to mark the garden’s construction and completion. It will be available, free of charge, to those families that lost loved ones, the businesses that contribute, the US Government (including the office of the President) and those that have been involved in the project. As well as photographs by Gautier Deblonde and Howard Sooley, the book will feature messages from HRH The Prince of Wales, who has taken a keen interest in the garden’s development, the US Ambassador, and the Prime Minister.