On September 11th I was at work. The radio was on and suddenly I heard something about an airplane flying into the World Trade Center in New York. I first thought the DJ made a joke, but on my watch I saw it was 3pm (Amsterdam time): time for the news. Then several minutes later it said another airplane had hit the other tower. Not much later it was said another airplane had hit the Pentagon in Washington and another most likely had come down in Pennsylvania. It took me at least one hour to realise what I had heard, but just kept on working hardly understanding what had happened. Then at 5pm I went home and of course immediately turned on the television. I saw the first real views and I finally realised in all seriousness what had happened and just kept on watching television not wanting to miss anything.

In the days following I emailed several people I met on the Internet and who live in the USA, several of them in New York and Washington, and I emailed my relatives in Minneapolis. They happily were all doing fine, but it will take a while before they'll recover from the shock. I took part in the three-minute silence on Friday together with millions of other people all around the world. It is what my relatives from Minneapolis said: "There is so little you can do. You can only give money, donate blood and pray and wait what will be next." By putting a small message of condolence on the front of my website I hope I at least gave some people the feeling I think about them.

Of course I also knew several royals live in New York and in Washington. At the moment the airplanes hit the towers of the World Trade Center, the Duchess of York was on her way to a breakfast meeting of her charity organisation "Chances for Children" on the 101st floor of the first tower of the WTC that was hit. She was late as her cab was stuck in a traffic jam in Manhattan. Princess Alexandra of Greece was on her way to the studio of her mother at Bleecker Street, only hundreds of metres from the WTC when she saw the fire in the towers, turned on the radio and heard what had happened. She told the French magazine Point de Vue that on the streets hundreds of people around her were crying.

Crown prince Haakon of Norway and his wife Mette-Marit were on honeymoon at Montauk, Long Island, when they heard the news. Just two weeks before they had been in New York theirselves and had disappeared for the press afterwards. Hours later the Norwegian court announced that the couple was on a safe place elsewhere in the USA. Other royals might have lost friends who worked at the WTC, like Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia who lives in New York already for 10 years, and Máxima Zorreguieta, fiancée of the Dutch crown prince, who lived and worked in New York for several years. King Abdullah of Jordan and the Duke of York were on their way to the USA when their airplanes returned. Prince Laurent of Belgium was in Boston and wasn't able to return to Belgium until Saturday, like the Duchess of York, and Haakon and Mette-Marit returned on Sunday morning.

Like me heads of state, among them kings and queens, have sent out their messages with condolences to the American people and also to the American president. In every country the tragedy had its influence on the engagements of the heads of state. Messages came from Prince Rainier III of Monaco, from Grand Duke Henri of Luxemburg and King Juan Carlos of Spain, but also from Reza Pahlavi, the Iranian Shah in exile, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, the Emir of Bahrain and the Emir of Qatar. Days after the tragedy King Fahd of Saudi Arabia as well as Sheikh Zayed of the United Arabic Emirates stopped their support to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, after the refusal to extradite prime suspect Osama bin Laden. King Albert II of the Belgians and his family cancelled visits for the rest of the week and took part in the three-minute silence on Friday. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in his message said: "It is an horrible attack to democracy and the world." The day after the attacks, he, his wife, Crown Princess Victoria and Princess Lilian attended a special tribute for the victims at the Swedish Parliament. King Harald V, Queen Sonja and Princess Märtha Louise of Norway attended a memorial service in Oslo Cathedral on September 13th. On September 12th Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Prince Henrik attended a memorial service at Copenhagen Cathedral and princess Alexandra cancelled a visit to Bosnia for the Danish Red Cross.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands didn't cancel her engagements, that were already of quite a sober character, but the Prince of Orange and his fiancée Máxima Zorreguieta postponed two visits of their happy entrances in the Dutch provinces. On Saturday the Prince of Orange and his fiancée attended a memorial service for the victims of the US attack at the Dom Church in Utrecht. Their next happy entrance on Wednesday was kept sober. On Thursday the yearly Prinsjesdag was held, which you can compare to the State of the Union in the USA. This year no gala uniforms were worn and there was no music. Although Queen Beatrix, the Prince of Orange and prince Johan Friso used the Golden Carriage for their ride to the Ridderzaal in The Hague, they stopped at the US embassy for 15 seconds to pay their respect. And in her speech the Queen expressed her sympathy and said: "These assaults on humanity make us realise how fragile our existence truly is. They strengthen our conviction that all forms of terrorism must be combated forcefully. Close international cooperation is more crucial than ever in order to defend the fundamental values of freedom, democracy and justice."

After the tragedy most attention went to Great Britain that immediately gave their support to the USA. On September 12th Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain ordered a special Changing of the Guards ceremony at 11:30am at Buckingham Palace the next day in honour of the victims of the US tragedy. A military band played the US national anthem followed by a two-minute silence and sombre music. The Queen was represented by the Duke of York. The Queen herself broke off from her holiday in Scotland to attend a special service at St Paul's Cathedral in London at noon for relatives and friends of the victims of the US attacks on September 14th . The very emotional service was also attended by the Duke of Edinburgh, who read a lesson, and the Prince of Wales. For the first time during her reign the British people saw their Queen crying in public. On Sunday the Duke and Duchess of York and their daughters have visited the American embassy in London. The Duchess was one of the first people to donate money and days after the tragedy started a charity, the 911 Fund, to help counsel the children affected by the disaster. Also Queen Elizabeth promised to make an unclosed donation as she was deeply affected by the atrocities.

The tragedy in the USA has united almost all countries in the world. Almost everybody agrees that something horrible has taken place and that it a serious attack not only against the USA, but also against the whole world. I myself just hope that the attack doesn't end in a new World War.

Imagine all the people living life in peace...

Take care!

Netty Leistra
Royal Watch
October 2001

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