UK families who lost loved ones in the 11 September 2001 attacks will gather to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the disaster at a private ceremony in London.
The service of remembrance at the Memorial Garden in Grosvenor Square is organised every year by members of the September 11 UK Families Support Group (S11UKFSG), which was founded in 2002.
This year, family members will read out the names of 67 British victims who died in the terror attacks as well as the names of foreign nationals who had close ties to the UK.
There will also be a minute’s silence, poems, music and white roses laid on the inscription stone within the garden.
The memorial garden opposite the US Embassy honours British victims of the 9/11 terror attacks (Photo: Paul Watkins)
“It is very dear to us, it was designed with consultation of all the families,” Jelena Watkins, founder-member of the support group, told i.
“What is also less known is that a piece of steel from the World Trade Centre is buried underneath so it is a very special place for families in the UK.
“For many members it’s the only place they have to visit because many never had any remains of their loved ones recovered.”
Mrs Watkins lost her brother Vladimir Tomasevic, 36, in the attacks. He was a Canadian citizen who worked in software development and had been at a conference on the 106th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre on the fateful day.
Vladimir Tomasevic was at a conference on the 106th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre when it was struck by a hijacked plane (Photo: Jelena Watkins)
“He wasn’t at his regular place of work, he was just visiting there,” said Mrs Watkins, who lives in west London. “He was a great person, a wonderful brother, very smart with great integrity.”
She and several others founded the UK support group in order for families to support each other, share information and grieve together.
“I didn’t know anyone else affected by the attacks for the first six months, so for me it was a hugely isolating experience,” she said.
“So just having other people who can bare with the awful details of what we were going through was enormously helpful.
“And to have a voice and representation, being in a position to influence and consult about decisions made about us.”
Mrs Watkins went on to carve out a career as a trauma therapist and has helped set up support groups for people affected by disasters including the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 and Paris attacks in 2015.
“Looking back, the significant minority of those who are impacted by terror attacks they do go on to find a way of contributing to society.
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“There is this this profound loss, grief, shock and trauma, but it does lead to a desire to give something back and participate in advocacy and put in place support systems for others.”
To mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the support group is planning to publish a commemorative book next year, which will document how the families came together and the moments they shared in the past two decades.
It is hoped that the book will act as a template for future families who are affected by terrorism and disaster.
“We felt if we don’t put our record on paper that in the passage of time it would be forgotten,” Mrs Watkins said.
“We wanted to document how we came together after the isolation and loneliness that many of us felt in the early days, who barely knew anybody else in the same situation.”