New York, Dec 8: Britain's Prince William and his wife, Kate, laid flowers today at one of America's most somber sites-the National Sept 11 Memorial and Museum. The couple crossed the memorial plaza in Lower Manhattan in pouring rain and wind, each holding a black umbrella.
Wearing a hot-pink, double-breasted Mulberry coat, black tights, and black stiletto-heeled pumps, Kate smiled as she spoke with memorial and museum President Joe Daniels. The royals then laid a bouquet at one of two reflecting pools built in the footprints of the fallen towers. Each is ringed with the chiseled names of the nearly 2,900 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
After paying their respects at the southern pool, William and Kate entered the underground museum that commemorates the attacks. During their half-hour visit, they descended to the bedrock level that houses exhibits. Escorted by Daniels and museum director Alice Greenwald, the royals passed two trident-shaped columns preserved from the facade of the fallen north tower and the battered "survivors' staircase" that hundreds used to escape.
The duke and duchess also entered the Memorial Hall, a space between the former twin towers' footprints with a wall of blue tiles representing all the victims of the 2001 attacks, plus those who died in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Behind the wall lies a repository of unidentified Sept. 11 remains.
The nearby "In Memoriam" exhibition has profiles of the victims. Visitors can leave a message or signature with a stylus on an electronic tablet. Kate and William both signed, writing "Catherine" and "William" in script.
Museum chief of staff Allison Blais said the duchess "talked about how in awe she was of the enormity of the space; it was something she didn't anticipate." Blais said Kate also spoke about how moving the memorial was and being able to touch the names of the victims. About a dozen museum goers awaited William and Kate, phones at the ready.
Before leaving the site, William and Kate admired the massive, marble-clad lobby of 1 World Trade Center, graced by a large Christmas tree. The recently completed 104-floor skyscraper is the nation's tallest building. A handful of onlookers braved the wet weather for a glimpse of the royals. "I love them so much," said Kristina Crossan, a 24-year-old teacher from New Jersey.
Her mother, Marianne Crossan, called the rain "a small price to pay."