NEW YORK – Prince Harry bowed his head in prayer at ground zero Friday “in admiration of the courage shown by the people of this great city” – as he wrote on a wreath he placed at the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
The 24-year-old prince – famed for his youthful, at times embarrassing, escapades – is on his first official trip to the United States.
Clearly, Harry had a different agenda as he started his two-day New York visit.
Dressed somberly in a blue suit, red-and-blue striped tie and black toe-cap shoes, he arrived at the World Trade Center just after noon.
Harry was greeted by New York Gov. David Paterson and Christopher Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site. The prince then spent about 15 minutes speaking quietly with to a half-dozen relatives of 9/11 victims.
Among them was Chip Callori, whose brother, Joseph Amatuccio, was killed on Sept. 11, 2001. “It’s a very kind gesture on his part – for him to realize that this is a sad but important part of our history,” Callori said.
On a chain-link fence overlooking the Sept. 11 memorial under construction, Harry attached a wreath of peonies and white and yellow roses. Standing alone, he bowed his head in silence for a few minutes.
A handwritten note on the wreath read: “In respectful memory of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, and in admiration of the courage shown by the people of this great city on that day.” It was signed, “Harry.”
Harry walked along the southern perimeter of the 16-acre site, stopping to pore over rebuilding plans two officials showed him.
As he left the site, he said, “It’s just fantastic to see what’s going on and hopefully everyone will be happy with the results – I’m sure they will be.”
At the firehouse across the street that houses Engine 10 and Ladder 10, which lost five members on Sept. 11, the prince shook hands with firefighters, then stepped in to admire their equipment as they talked and laughed.
Back on the street, Harry suddenly broke away from his security detail and turned the corner to see the side of the firehouse, which is graced by a bronze memorial to 343 firefighters killed at ground zero.
A few feet away, hundreds of people behind police barricades strained for a glimpse of smiling, red-haired Harry. His fun-loving, outgoing nature erupted as he strolled over to shake hands and chat.
Maria Jimenez, a tourist from Texas, rushed over to snap pictures, saying, “I’m very excited. We don’t get very many opportunities to see a prince in Houston, Texas.”
The younger son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana is third in line to the British throne, after his father and older brother, William.
His New York fun is to come today, when the prince is to participate in the Veuve Clicquot Manhattan Polo Classic on Governors Island in New York Harbor, facing off against Argentinian polo player and heartthrob Nacho Figueras.