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8 June 2013

The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden, New York

Tag(s): Foreign Affairs, Philanthropy
9/11 was one of those dreadful events that everyone remembers clearly where they were when they first heard the shocking news as with the assassination of President John F Kennedy or the murder of John Lennon. On September 11, 2001 two commercial passenger aircraft were hijacked by Islamic terrorists associated with the Al-Qaeda network and flown deliberately into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City bringing them both to the ground. Nearly 3,000 people were killed and naturally one of the first actions was to decide to build a memorial. That was finally opened just before September 11th 2011, the tenth anniversary. It occupies eight of the 16 acres at the World Trade Center and sets out to honour the lives of those who were lost. The names of every person who died in the terrorist attacks of February 26, 1993 as well as September 11, 2001, are inscribed in bronze around the twin memorial pools.

However, there is another memorial in New York commemorating the same events. In another part of Lower Manhattan in Hanover Square is The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden, a memorial to the 67 British subjects who died in the blasts. In 2002, the St George’s Society, under the then presidency of William R. Miller, CBE embraced the idea of creating a permanent garden memorial. The Garden is administered by the British Memorial Garden Trust, Inc founded by the British Consulate and the St George’s Society. The Garden’s newly expanded mission is to:
  • Celebrate the historic ties of friendship and unity between the United States of America, the Commonwealth countries and the United Kingdom.
  • Honour the British and Commonwealth victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
  • Create a feeling of new life and growth in Lower Manhattan.
  • Bring British and Commonwealth heritage and arts initiatives to the community and City of New York.
  • Honour HM The Queen upon the occasion of Her Diamond Jubilee. From its beginnings, this New York City park has been funded through donations from foundations, individuals and corporations.
On May 2, 2012, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster Abbey formally renamed the Garden “The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden” thus officially dedicating the Garden as the memorial for all the  Commonwealth victims of the September 11th attacks, as well as honouring Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee.  The mission of The Queen Elizabeth September 11th Garden is to “maintain a showplace garden reflecting the long history, shared friendship and common causes and sacrifices of the peoples of the United Kingdom, The Commonwealth and the United States of Americas. With the motto ‘Sowing the Seeds of Friendship and Peace’ we celebrate the strong ties of the past and the present, the hope for the future and a promise never to forget those whom we have lost along the way.”

Last week I was invited to the Inaugural City of London Luncheon for the Garden. The keynote address was given by Ambassador Barbara J. Stevenson, Chargée d’affaires, The United States Embassy in London. At the time of 9/11 she had been based in the consulate in Northern Ireland where she had played a role in assisting the peace talks there, so she had a particularly strong sense of the ties between our two great nations. For her the garden was a place of tranquillity, and was more than a memorial - it was also a monument to good partnership. It was particularly important that it was funded entirely privately and not by taxpayer dollars.

She had to say that at a fund raising event, but why if the garden was now open was it necessary to raise more funds? The objective is to establish a “Permanent Donor-Restricted Fund” to maintain the Garden in perpetuity, with a minimum target of $5 million to provide an annual income of approximately $150,000. We were given a programme from a major fund raising event held in New York City and judging by the donors who had sent letters of support including people like Jamie Dimon, Chairman and Chief Executive of JP Morgan Chase they are well on the way.

But they may need more in the short term because Hurricane Sandy was not kind to the Garden. With the East River and the Hudson meeting, the Garden was flooded with salt water and all types of contaminants leaking from floating cars and flooded boiler rooms, none of which are conducive to plant life. They are working hard with their landscape company to get the soil back into shape and they hope that their plant loss will not be too extreme, as some of the plants had already entered their dormant cycle.

They further hope that the Garden will survive, like all living things. With nourishment, love and care it will come back and look beautiful and be once again a beautiful City Park and an oasis of calm in lower Manhattan for the many that enjoy it on a daily basis.

In the week of the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II I thought it fitting to mark the occasion by recording how her name can unite so many nations, not just those of the United Kingdom. She it was who asked that the Garden’s remit be extended to include a memorial for all the citizens of the Commonwealth who had also lost their lives in the attacks. And so led by Canada whose Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already visited the Garden, several other countries of the Commonwealth which lost citizens in the attacks have given their support including Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica.

Copyright David C Pearson 2013 All rights reserved



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