Tribute & Reflections of Queen Elizabeth II, Lockerbie and Miami

Dryfesdale Cemetery_Lockerbie War Memorial Queen Elizabeth

In June of 1993, almost a year after Hurricane Andrew had devastated the Miami area and almost five years after terrorists had attacked America by bombing Pan American Flight 103 as it flew over Lockerbie, Scotland, I was invited to represent families of the 190 American disaster victims at a Royal wreath-laying ceremony in Dryfesdale Cemetery.

I, along with my three children, other victims’ families, and local survivors, was eager to attend what would be Queen Elizabeth II’s first visit to Lockerbie after the largest terrorist attack in UK history. The bombing had killed 270 innocent civilians. Locally, residents had mixed emotions about the Queen’s overdue visit, but what unfolded over a few hours as the Queen paid tribute to the victims was unexpected and truly remarkable.

As Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip moved throughout the Remembrance Garden around the Memorial, they stopped and paid special attention to each of us, expressing concern and condolences.

The Queen was very engaging and informed about each one’s background. She asked me how I was getting on after my husband John’s death and the effects of Hurricane Andrew on my home in Miami. She listened intently about my experience in the aftermath of both disasters and spoke with each of my children.

Then, with both disquiet and affection she asked about two places she recalled fondly after her 1991 visit to Miami: Vizcaya Museum & Gardens and Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens. The latter contains the second largest collection of Royal Palms after the Kew Gardens in London.

I spoke of the 15-to-20-foot water surge from Biscayne Bay and of the ferocious 150-mph winds’ extensive damage to the power, phone, water, and other structures in the area, concluding that restoration might take years and multimillions of dollars.

Afterwards, I expressed my concern and sympathy to the Queen about the losses to her Royal residence after the November 1992 fire at Windsor Castle.

After reflection, she quietly and somberly responded that 1992 had been her Annus Horribilis, intimating what I believed was the additional spotlight on British royal life and on her children’s marriages.

I was touched by the humanity of her response, which went beyond her “official role” as Queen, but as a woman, as a wife, as a mother and as a grandmother. With tears in my eyes, I agreed that 1992 had been a horrible year for me as well, as was 1988. I thanked the Queen for her kindness, her compassion, and her care.

I then voiced my admiration to the Queen as the most rousing and remarkable female trailblazer and role model to me and to millions of women around the world. Her outstanding ability to lead with strength and resilience and to stalwartly navigate through decades of vastly challenging global circumstances were truly inspirational, as was her extraordinary example of a life dedicated to public service.

As we parted, I reflected on how any human being could take on the role, for life, of publicly bearing on one’s shoulders all the joys, pain, suffering and grief of her nation, while privately trying to shoulder that of her family’s.

To ascend to the throne, without preparation at the young age of 25, and without hesitation pledge lifelong service to her people was truly outstanding.

Then to be able to keep calm and with grace dutifully carry on, no matter what, all under relentless media and public scrutiny, was beyond extraordinary.

I felt honored and privileged to have been able to meet and experience this time with Queen Elizabeth and blessed that my family and I had the opportunity to personally witness this historic poignant occasion.

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