Today, Queen Elizabeth II will honor the victims of 9/11 by laying a wreath at Ground Zero and officially "opening" a 5-year-old British Garden of Remembrance. But why did it take nine years to do so?
We do, of course, understand that the Queen is a busy woman. Also, she's 84. Indeed, we'd have understood if she didn't make it here at all — in her entire reign, this will only mark her third visit to the Apple (despite the fact that Mayor Abe Beame made her majesty an "honorary New Yorker" in 1976). In '57, she was touring the world. In '76, she was celebrating the American bicentennial. So...why 2010? Largely, it would seem, because she was in the neighborhood: she and Prince Philip have been across the border for the past nine days, celebrating Canada Day.
Nevertheless, she made it, and will be in New York for all of eight hours. First, Queen Elizabeth will address the U.N. General Assembly, her first appearance since that 1957 visit, when she preached a message of peace and civil rights. Today's address promises to touch on similar territory, and include, according to the New York Times, an "appeal for world unity" with a "global perspective" - the rather vague message in keeping with her largely ceremonial role.
Then, onto Ground Zero with the governors of New York and New Jersey. She'll attend the ceremonial "royal opening" of the scenic British Garden of Remembrance, which commemorates those 67 British subjects killed in the attack on the World Trade Center. Following this, the royals will hop a private plane and head home.
To proud New Yorkers, this does seem like short shrift — even if it's hard to blame anyone for not wanting to linger in 100-degree (heat index of 105!) heat. It seems a shame for the Queen to leave New York without eating a cupcake, seeing the velvet ropes of the Meatpacking District Clubs, posing with the Naked Cowboy, inspecting the Blue Man Group or otherwise appreciating the wonders of modern NYC. Nevertheless, it's not hard to see why she hasn't been eager to come back: In 1976, no matter how much we might romanticize cheap rents and artistic cred, New York kinda blew. Crime-ridden, filthy, and bankrupt, it probably didn't make that good an impression. By way of example: that was the year Taxi Driver came out.
And even if Ground Zero is, these days, just an enormous construction site, for those 50 family members of victims with whom QE2 is meeting, this will probably be a welcome visit indeed. After all, amidst much protest from survivors, the city has discontinued its formal, large-scale 9/11 memorial services and surely it's heartening to receive acknowledgment from a public figure for whom the whole Ground Zero experience is oddly fresh. That said, if we're working on this delayed timeline, a Magnolia cupcake really would be in order.