London’s 9/11 Memorial Garden

In my post about the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I mentioned that in 2001 there was no clear focal point for peoples’ grief, no obvious place to congregate or to lay flowers in the days just after the attacks.  Some people did gather in Grosvenor Square in London, in front of the US Embassy, and in the following year the British Government announced plans for a memorial garden just on the other side of the square.

So now London does have a site dedicated to the memory of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.  I visited the memorial last week; some of my photographs appear below with captions to tell you more about it.

A semicircular pergola in the back and flower beds in the front make a circle around a carved stone commemorating all those who died in the attacks of 9/11. At the back of the circle (opposite the entrance to the garden) sits this pavilion of English oak.

Under this stone is buried a rusted steel girder from the World Trade Center, weighing half a ton and preserved in resin; it was decided the metal piece itself was too distressing to display openly. The poem around the edge is 'For Katrina's Sun-Dial' by American poet Henry Van Dyke, who wrote it to be used in the garden at Yaddo, the the house of the Trask family and now a famous artist's colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. You may find the words familiar; they are often used at funerals. It reads: "Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is not."

Three plaques inside the pavilion display the names of all of the British victims of 9/11.

Having had almost ten years to grow, vines cover the pergola. The plants include varieties native to the UK and the USA, chosen to give scent and blossom as much of the year as is possible in this climate, but concentrating on species that are at their best in mid-September. It was glorious when I was there last week, with such a mix of scents I couldn't identify which flowers were contributing to it.

Prince Charles placed this wreath, with the red poppies that are traditional for remembering the fallen, at the memorial service on 11 Sept this year. The white flowers are shaped into three plumes to approximate the three white feathers emblematic of the Prince of Wales (see featured link). Princess Anne was the royal on hand for the opening of the garden in 2003.

The vines overhead, seen from a seat under the pergola.

Looking out at the flower beds.

The pediment is carved with words from the Queen's remarks at a memorial service in 2001: "Grief is the price we pay for love."



Filed under Culture, Current events, History

5 responses to “London’s 9/11 Memorial Garden

  1. It looks the least tasteless of any 9/11 memorial I’ve seen which is something I suppose.

    I heard they are moving the US embassy down to the Thames soon. Somewhere beyond the South Bank I believe. It’ll be nice to not see those OTT bollards, concrete blocks and armed security any more – or maybe they’ll be kept on to guard the memorial.

    If anyone reading can spare 26 seconds, I urge them to watch this video. If you have 3 whole minutes to spare, maybe watch it the same event, but with commentary.

    Trauma tends to make us all very suggestible, you see… a very sad but true fact.

  2. We were in Ocean Grove, NJ, during the commemoration events for the 9/11 decade memorial. The centrepiece was an ordered array of 2,977 empty pairs of shoes on the lawns to the south of the great Auditorium. Each pair clasped a miniature US flag between the heels, and candles in jars were lighted in a regular grid pattern right across the display. It was deeply moving both by night and by day. At the focal point, where an ornamental urn stands as a permanent feature, the local firecrew had placed empty fireman’s boots at the four points of the pedestal, each filled with a bouquet and an American flag. Most moving of all was the complete absence of any text or title or explanation; they didn’t even point out that there were exactly 2,977 pairs. The visual and verbal silence said it all.

  3. Ernest Adams

    I think it’s slightly unfortunate that there were 2977 American flags at the display Malcolm describes — not all the victims were US citizens and I think that’s important to keep in mind. While the attack was undoubtedly aimed primarily at the United States, other nations’ sufferings should not be forgotten entirely.

    This is a great collection of pictures and I agree that it is a particularly tasteful memorial.

  4. This is really for Americans to reply to, but I think that the point of putting the one flag alongside the symbolic empty shoes of each victim, regardless of nationality, is that America so honours them. Britons in America cannot help noticing that the national flag has a vastly different symbolic value over there. Not all of its uses are equally high-minded but what happened at Ocean Grove would not have been intended — or seen — as any kind of usurpation. (Something for a blog, mef?)

  5. Malcolm

    By chance I had dinner with five Americans on the evening of Sept. 21 and we discussed this point. Ocean Grove is a small community and it was a heroic effort simply to collect 2,977 pairs of shoes that were not old castoffs; to collect 373 miniature flags of 57 other countries and apportion them correctly (from 68 British down through 47 Dominican Republic … 24 Canadian … to single flags for Russia, Sweden, and 15 other nations) was way beyond their capabilities. And in those circumstances it was surely better to honour them with the US flag than to leave 373 pairs unflagged or to omit them altogether?
    However, they said it would have been scandalous for a big city to adopt the same pragmatic approach for a similar memorial display — agreeing there with Ernest’s point.

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