15 years after her death Princess Diana remembered
GUY Gerald brought wild flowers from his garden and a poem he wrote for Diana, laying them gently among the mementos dotting a makeshift Paris shrine to the late princess Friday, 15 years after she died.
The 65-year-old was one of a steady trickle of tourists, well-wishers, and die-hard Diana fans who filed past the site, directly above the underpass where the princess was killed in a car crash alongside her companion Dodi Fayed.
“Unforgettable Diana”, “A life of love,” “Fifteen years already”, read the little notes taped to the base of a local monument, a replica of the flame of the Statue of Liberty which Diana fans have adopted as an informal memorial.
Ignoring the din of the traffic rushing into the tunnel under the Alma bridge, just north of the River Seine, visitors from Brazil, South Africa or Canada, bent to read the messages set among pictures and papier mache flowers.
As he has done each year since 1997, Mr Gerald made the two-hour journey from Orleans south of Paris to pay his respects – among a busy jostle of radio and television crews.
“Diana is a figure of inspiration for all of us. She brings me comfort and strength,” smiled the metalworker, who planned to spend four to five hours at the shrine.
“Fifteen years already, time has stood still and so has my heart,” reads the opening of the poem he wrote in her memory. “But for all those who love, time is eternal.”
South African businessman Robbie Teengs and his wife Theresa also set aside the last day of a European tour to pay tribute to Diana.
“It was a shock 15 years ago,” said the 53-year-old ironmongery businessman.
“I can remember that night exactly. Harry and William – their kids were the same age as our kids. I woke my wife up, we couldn’t sleep.
“She was taken away hopelessly too soon. I think she meant a hell of a lot, not only to her family but also to the world.
“So our priority today was to come here,” he said.
Likewise, Jocelyn Knott from the region of Toronto, was in Paris with a whole tribe of 15 family members en route for a reunion in the Netherlands – and together they made a detour via the monument.
“We thought it would be special to stop by and see the memorial,” said the 52-year-old. “I think its a wonderful tribute to her and her life.
“I remember the day she got married and the birth of her children, her charity work, how she tried to raise her boys as normal as possible. It was so sad she had to die that early.”
Sylvia Fricot brought her eight-year-old daughter all the way from southern France to show her the shrine to the “Princess of Hearts”.
“She was a beautiful woman, elegant and generous,” she said. “I still remember when I learned of her death. I had just woken up, and it took me some time to come to terms with it.”
The princess’s untimely death was a blow for Priyani Wijesinghe, a 66-year-old Sri Lankan doctor who now lives in Paris, and who has lovingly collected Diana memorabilia ever since her royal wedding to Charles in 1981.
“She’s the only Diana, there won’t be another,” she said.
“I don’t know why she was taken away.”