UNITED NATIONS - Queen Elizabeth II capped her whirlwind five-hour visit to Manhattan Tuesday with a poignant visit to a special garden dedicated to British subjects who died on Sept. 11. She even showed up 20 minutes early.
In the scorching heat, the 84-year-old monarch, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, talked individually to family members of those who died and board members of the British Memorial Garden at Hanover Square in the Financial District.
Then, standing in front of a tree planted a year ago by her son Prince Charles, the queen cut a red ribbon to officially open the park meant to serve as a respite for those working in the area.
"She had a word for everyone," said Alexandra Clarke, whose daughter Suria, 30, died in the north tower. "We were seriously impressed."
Clarke, who flew in from her home in London for the dedication, said the 30 families of those killed who gathered at the park were thrilled that the queen visited.
Among the crowd was British expatriate Donald Briggs, 86, a retired Manhattan hematologist who immigrated to the United States in 1953. "We have a tendency, we Brits, to stick together," Briggs said.
"She looked pretty good," observed Kelly, who also received a personal greeting from the queen.
The royal motorcade arrived at Hanover Square at 5:38 p.m. after the queen placed a wreath at the World Trade Center site. She stayed at the garden for about 20 minutes before leaving for Kennedy Airport.
At Ground Zero, Elizabeth laid a wreath of flowers on an iron pedestal near the footprint of the trade center's south tower.
Bowing her head, she gently brushed her gloved hand against the locally grown red peonies, roses, lilies, black-eyed Susans and other summer blossoms.
Earlier, in a seven-minute speech, the queen praised the work of the United Nations, saying it has a history of being a "real force for common good," while urging the institution to meet global challenges of the future. The British monarch arrived at the UN's Manhattan headquarters at 3 p.m. in a motorcade of black limousines and SUVs, marking her first visit to New York in nearly 35 years.
"The achievements of the United Nations are remarkable," she said, speaking in the General Assembly chamber. "You have helped to reduce conflict, you have offered humanitarian assistance to millions of people affected by natural disasters and other emergencies, and you have been deeply committed to tackling the effects of poverty in many parts of the world."
She noted that she last addressed the UN body in 1957, saying the values inherent in the UN's charter "endure" and have allowed the world body of nearly 200 member nations to play a role in resolving conflicts since its founding in 1945.
The queen was met at the UN by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki, their wives, and a fusillade of camera flashes by scores of photographers.
Before addressing delegates, she paused to touch a wreath erected in front of the stained glass memorial created by Marc Chagall and dedicated to Dag Hammarskjold, the second secretary-general of the UN, who died in a plane crash in 1961.
Her speech was an ode to world unity and peace, and she plugged the UN's Millennium Development Goals, an ambitious set of benchmarks designed to reduce poverty worldwide, while pleading with the UN to remain vigilant against terrorism and climate change.