(CNSNews.com) – As many around the world mark the death of Queen Elizabeth, Sunday’s 21st anniversary of 9/11 provided a reminder of her response to the terrorist attack on America, including a break in centuries-old tradition and words of condolence that touched many on both sides of the Atlantic.
At a 9/11 memorial ceremony at the Pentagon, President Biden recalled a memorable line from the queen’s message, delivered by her ambassador at a church service in Manhattan days after the attacks: “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
A week earlier, on September 13, Buckingham Palace had become a focal point for thousands of people – including many Americans grappling with the enormity of what had taken place but unable to return home because of the suspension of flights and closure of U.S. airspace.
On that morning, on the Queen’s instructions, the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the palace featured a playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. According to the British Army it was the first time in a tradition dating back to the 17th century that another country’s national anthem had been played in that ceremony.
Footage from the time shows Americans standing, hands on heart, some in tears, some singing, as the Coldstream Guards band played their anthem. Prince Andrew stood to attention in the courtyard of the palace, alongside U.S. Ambassador William Farish.
As the last strains died away, many in the crowd applauded, before a two-minute silence was observed.
“Traffic on The Mall, one of central London’s busiest thoroughfares, came to a halt during the tribute,” the Daily Telegraph reported at the time.
“The band then played a selection of somber American music, including Hymn for the Fallen, written by the composer John Williams and used in the final credits of the film, Saving Private Ryan.”
(The following month the Coldstream Guards together with the Scots Guards paid a goodwill tour to New York, a series of free public performances entitled “Unity, Solace and Hope.”)
‘United in sorrow’
The Queen, who had been at Balmoral in Scotland when the attacks took place, returned to London and attended a service of remembrance at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where The Star-Spangled Banner was again sung.
In New York City the following week, a service was held at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in remembrance for 250 British citizens still missing. (Sixty-eight Britons were killed in the attacks.)
Those in attendance included then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, former President Clinton, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and New York Gov. George Pataki
The Queen’s message, delivered by British Ambassador Christopher Meyer, read:
You come together today in St. Thomas Church in New York united in sorrow by the terrible events of last week. Each and every one of us has been shocked and numbed by what we have witnessed in these recent days.
But none of us should doubt the resilience and determination of this great and much loved city and its people. Men and women from many nations, from many faiths and from many backgrounds were working together in New York City when this unimaginable outrage overtook them all.
At your service today, we think especially of the British victims. For some of them, New York was simply a stopover on some busy travel schedule. For others it was a workplace of excitement and of opportunity. For many it was a familiar second home.
These are dark and harrowing times for families and friends of those who are missing or who suffered in the attack - many of you here today. My thoughts and my prayers are with you all now and in the difficult days ahead.
But nothing that can be said can begin to take away the anguish and the pain of these moments. Grief is the price we pay for love.
Recalling the unprecedented events of that Thursday morning in London 21 years ago, Gary Bauer, president of the conservative think tank American Values, said Queen Elizabeth “won my heart when, in the aftermath of the vicious 9/11 attacks, she broke with tradition and ordered the playing of our national anthem at Buckingham Palace.”
“It was a testament to her character, her faith in Judeo-Christian values and her appreciation for the alliance of English-speaking people in the cause of freedom around the world.”