The families and friends of those killed in the Asian tsunami joined the Queen and Tony Blair at St Paul’s Cathedral, London this afternoon to honour all those who died.
Film director Lord Attenborough, whose daughter and granddaughter were both killed in the Boxing Day tragedy gave a reading during an emotional ceremony. Families, friends, survivors, aid workers and police who helped the rescue efforts gathered to pay their respects.
Linda Lilley, mother of 29-year-old Jeremy Stephens, from Norwich, who died on the Thai island of Phi Phi, said, “I feel mixed emotions, but we are all pleased that we have this opportunity to meet other people and be able to talk without crying too much.”
Mrs Lilley, from Hythe, Kent, said she was meeting a friend of her son who had taken photographs of the place where they thought “Jez” had died.
Referring to the ceremony, she said: “It is a healing process, definitely. I want to draw a line underneath the whole episode.”
During a two-minute silence, some 300,000 petals – one for every person killed – fell from the cathedral’s dome and galleries. From flowers associated with the 12 countries ravaged in the disaster, there was jasmine for Indonesia and Burma, waterlilies for Sri Lanka, Thailand and Bangladesh, the lotus for India, pink rose for the Maldives, protea for Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia, orchids for the Seychelles and hibiscus for Malaysia.
A procession of 22 representatives from the British families and affected countries walked through the cathedral, carrying candles.
An estimated 273,800 people were killed and thousands are still missing after massive tidal waves – triggered by a huge earthquake on the Indian Ocean floor off the western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia – swept into coastal villages and seaside resorts throughout the region.
Around 126 of the bereaved families were represented at the service. Around half of the 51 families who lost non-UK relatives abroad were also there, joined by 54 of the 128 Britons who were severely injured.
1,800 people gathered alongside the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Mr Blair and senior figures from the Government.
The service was led by the Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Rev Dr John Moses, and the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.
A Thai musician, Dusadee Swangviboonpong, played a traditional lament on the sor-u-a Thai fiddle made from a coconut shell.
The tsunami provoked an unprecedented humanitarian response across the globe.