Britain’s queen making first visit to Ground Zero

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LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II will visit Ground Zero for the first time and make her first address to the U.N. General Assembly in over half a century when she arrives in New York on Tuesday.

The 84-year-old monarch, accompanied by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, will lay a wreath at the former site of the World Trade Center to pay tribute to victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks. She will also open the British Garden of Remembrance in nearby Hanover Square to honor the 67 British citizens killed on 9/11.

Royal aides say she was personally concerned about the tragedy, but had not had an opportunity to go to New York herself.

In 2002, on the first anniversary of the attacks, she sought to console the grieving British community living there by sending them a personal message, expressing her sympathy and thanking New Yorkers for their support for grieving Britons.

Other royal family members have paid tribute in the following years — the queen’s son, Prince Charles, and his wife Camilla visited the site in 2005, while Prince Harry, Charles’ son and the third in line to the throne, was there last year.

On Tuesday the queen will also make her first speech to the 192-member General Assembly in more than half a century. She was 31 years old when she last addressed the U.N. in 1957 — just four years after she was crowned queen, and a little more than a decade after the organization officially came into existence.

Her speech this time is expected to appeal for world unity and peace. A former aide said that although the speech will contain some of her thoughts, it will have been penned with government officials.

“It will be a strong message coming from the British head of state. She will be delivering it on behalf of the British government,” said Dickie Arbiter, a former press secretary to the queen.

The monarch’s U.S. visit is tagged to the end of her nine-day tour of Canada in honor of the Canadian Navy’s centenary and to mark Canada Day. The queen has visited Canada over 20 times, and said last week she regarded the Commonwealth country as a “home away from home.”

The monarch makes regular overseas trips, and Commonwealth states including Canada, Australia and New Zealand are priority stops. She was last in the U.S. three years ago for a whirlwind tour that took her from Jamestown in Virginia, the derby in Kentucky to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

That tour didn’t include a stop in New York, which has not seen the queen since 1976, when she stopped by for U.S. bicentennial celebrations.