Charles, Camilla view 9/11 sites in New York

NEW YORK - Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, began an eight-day US trip with a visit to Manhattan's Ground Zero and the dedication of the British Memorial Garden to honor victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

After a private tour of the razed site of the World Trade Center's twin towers, the royals spent 10 minutes of reflection among mementos left to honor those who died at the "family room," reserved for relations of victims of the attacks.

Sixty-seven Britons were killed in the hijacked airplane attacks that brought the twin towers down, killing 2,749 office workers, rescuers and others.

Hundreds of lunch-hour onlookers applauded when a motorcade delivered the royal couple and New York Gov. George Pataki to Hanover Square, a narrow triangular park nestled among high-rise office buildings in downtown Manhattan.

"This is really exciting," said Deborah Leigh, a downtown office worker. "I think it's great they were able to come here for the dedication. That was awesome."

The prince was making his first official visit to the United States since 1994, when he came with the late Princess Diana.

Charles and Camilla stepped out of a black limousine and greeted the crowd before walking into the memorial garden.

After being presented with a bouquet of flowers by a little girl in a tartan dress, they greeted dignitaries and then strolled around the temporary plantings before tugging at either end of a dark green drape to unveil the center stone, embossed with the crest of the Prince of Wales.

BRITISH GARDEN

The garden is expected to cost about US$6.5 million to build with British stone and ironworks.

After the unveiling, Charles and Camilla crossed the street into the India House, a private club, to meet with 150 guests and 30 family members of British victims of 9/11.

"Both my wife and I were profoundly moved by what we saw," the prince said about their visit to Ground Zero. "Not just by the scale of the outrage but the deeply distressing individual stories of heroism and of loss.

"Our hearts go out to you today as they did on that dreadful day. Both our nations have been united by grief and strengthened by the support we have given one another."

Alexandra Clarke, chair of a September 11 families group in Britain, whose daughter Suria, 30, was killed in the attacks, praised the prince for his support.

"Britain's Prince Charles has been behind us and with us right from the beginning," she said. "He has been quietly and personally very kind to families of September 11 victims in the U.K.

"They're both very relaxed people," she said of the royal couple. "They were genuinely interested in hearing the stories people had to tell. We were talking, they were listening."

Charles went on to visit the United Nations, where he met Secretary-General Kofi Annan and participated in a discussion promoting jobs for young people as a way to spur global development, an issue he said he had been interested in for the past decade.

Later, the English royalty were to be honored at a reception at the Museum of Modern Art, where invited guests included Sir Elton John, actors Robert De Niro, Catherine Zeta Jones, Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker and comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

Charles and Camilla are to have lunch and dinner on Wednesday at the White House. On Friday, they plan to visit New Orleans, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, before continuing on to San Francisco.

- REUTERS

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