At London ceremony, Britons gather to mourn their losses

At least 200 were killed at World Trade Center

Terrorism Strikes America

The World

September 26, 2001|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON - They stood yesterday in the sunshine, by a path of dying flowers leading to a statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt standing with a cane, at Grosvenor Square, by the U.S. Embassy.

They listened as speakers summoned up new words about a numbing tragedy, watched as an honor guard of U.S. Marines marched quietly into place and dabbed at tears when a lone piper played "Amazing Grace" and a British Marine bugler played taps.

For a handful of British families, some of whom had been to New York, this was a chance to publicly mourn those they lost during the terrorist attacks on the United States Sept. 11.

When hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, the death toll included not just thousands of Americans, but also people from scores of other nations. Amid the rubble, at least 200 Britons lost their lives, sending a shock wave through cities and towns of an island nation an ocean from New York.

Those lost include Oli Bennett, 29,of London, a financial journalist in New York.

His parents, Joy and Adrian Bennett, were among the several hundred people who gathered in the square yesterday. They held each other, their faces composed through most of the brief ceremony.

Afterward, Adrian Bennett took a piece of paper from his briefcase. It was a one-page synopsis of his son's life, listed as missing in New York, born April 8, 1972, in the Chiswick area of London, educated at private schools, a degree in psychology from St. Andrews University, a job as a distribution manager, four years as a financial journalist for Risk Waters.

"Adored youngest son. Loyal brother and friend of Justin. Admiring brother in law of Sally. Besotted uncle of Christopher aged 5 months," the paper said. "An independent, apparently quiet young man but to all who know him an absolute comedian, laid back to horizontal, capable of one-liners that take your breath away."

Britain is coming to know those such as Oli Bennett. Their stories have been told in the news media here, unusual in a country where grief is rarely public.

Graham Berkeley, 37, a concert violinist with a career in computers, was on a Boston-to-Los Angeles flight that crashed into the World Trade Center.

His parents in Shrewsbury, in the English countryside, Pauline and Charles Berkeley, saw the plane crash on television. When they understood what had happened, they continued to watch, the mother explaining that she felt she could somehow comfort her son and be with him through every replay of the crash.

Sarah Redheffer, 35, who organized conferences, was on the 106th floor of the tower that was hit second. She left behind her husband, her mother and her father, the Rev. David Protheroe, who presides over two churches outside Bath. Next month, he will officiate at a memorial service for his daughter, starting a memorial fund in her name.

"Words cannot describe what these terrific brave families have gone through," U.S. Ambassador William S. Farish said yesterday as he met with relatives of some of the victims. Looking around the square, he spoke of a place "transformed from a garden of sadness to one of solidarity." More than 50,000 people have paid their respects in the past two weeks, leaving flowers and signing books of condolence.

`The people of Great Britain and the United States have mourned together. Now we stand together to face a new challenge. Together we will prevail," Farish said.

Sir John Kerr, Britain's former ambassador to Washington and head of Britain's foreign service, spoke as a `family friend" to America and quoted from an English World War I poem: `They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old."

As the ceremony ended and the families left, others wandered up a walk where dying orchids and roses gave off a sweet scent, to stand in the shadow of the Roosevelt statue and look at a mass of freshly cut flowers, a toy firetruck and a paper American flag inscribed:

`To All American People From One British Person. Be Brave. Be Free. Be Strong. We Stand United. We will never be defeated."

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