The Duchess of Cambridge has told how she was left moved after visiting the memorial to victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Kate and husband William were touched by their tour of the former World Trade Centre twin towers site, now transformed into a simple and dignified tribute to those who died in 2001.
The memorial has been built in the footprints of the towers and is a tranquil space in bustling Manhattan, with two enormous pools surrounded by trees as its centrepiece. The Duchess told Allison Blais, the memorial museum's chief of staff, she was particularly affected by being able to touch the names of the victims inscribed around the edge of the pools.
Nearly 3,000 people, including 67 Britons, were killed when Islamist extremists hijacked passenger jets and flew them into the twin towers, and the Pentagon in Washington DC. A fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after its crew and passengers fought back against the terrorists.
Ms Blais said about the Duchess: "She talked about how in awe she was of the enormity of the space. It was something she did not anticipate. She also talked about how moving the memorial was, and being able to touch the names of the victims outside on the pools."
The royal couple also toured the memorial's museum which tells the story of the attacks and features artefacts from the fateful day and mementos of those who died. Joe Daniels, the museums's chief executive and president, said: "You could see it really in both their eyes, the sort of care and curiosity they had for the story of what happened and the people who died that day."
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He said that one of the most moving parts of the visit came when they toured the In Memoriam room, where photographs of nearly all of the victims line the walls. As the couple gazed at the pictures of the dead, outside recorded voices intoned the names of their friends and loved ones: "My beloved husband... my best friend... my beloved daughter."
Mr Daniels said: "Just looking at the faces - of the old, the young, every race, every colour - they were struck by the breadth and the scale of the loss we suffered that day."
William and Kate paid their respects to the victims of Flight 93 by laying a bouquet of white roses - the state flower of New York - on a bronze panel lining one of the pools that was embossed with the names of the dead. The Duchess, wearing a cerise Mulberry coat and a black maternity dress by Seraphine, carefully placed the blooms down as William held an umbrella over her to ward off torrential rain.
There was a handwritten message with the flowers, signed by the couple, which read: "In sorrowful memory of those who died on 11th September, and in admiration of the courage shown to rebuild." When the royal couple first entered the museum, they walked past two massive steel columns known as tridents which were recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Centre.
On the side of them, the word "SAVE" could be seen, which was spray-painted by a recovery worker signalling that the trident should be kept for posterity. In the Memorial Hall, at the bedrock level seven storeys below ground, William and Kate viewed an artwork made of 2,983 blue squares created by Brooklyn artist Spencer Finch.
Each square represents each victim of the three 9/11 sites - the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and Flight 93 - and also the six people killed in the 1993 truck bomb attack on the World Trade Centre. Each tile is a different shade of blue, evoking the bright blue of the sky that day in 2001.
A quote from the poet Virgil, made from reforged steel from the World Trade Centre, said: "No day shall erase you from the memory of time." A question from the Duchess about what the families thought of the museum touched on one of its controversial aspects.
Behind a wall are the fragments of human remains that have remained unidentified - a decision accepted by most families but regarded as an affront to the dignity of the dead by some. Mr Daniels told the Duchess that the "vast majority" of the families had been impressed with the museum and the care that went into its design.
The royal visitors also viewed the remains of a fire truck from Ladder Company Number 3, whose crew helped people escape from the North Tower. It was smashed when the towers collapsed, and all 11 members of its crew died. The rear half of the truck remained relatively unscathed, and on the back plate is the handwritten message: "Jeff we will not forget you."