"The best mother in the world," is how her sons want her to be remembered. The gate and fence of Kensington Palace filled with flowers and framed photos and notes, expressions of grief piled high, on Diana's death 10 years ago. The first glimpse of the grieving family we had was when they paraded in front of the gates, noting all the piles of stuff to express sadness and connections. Just like the Oklahoma City bombing, the tragic event was played and re-played 24/7 on cable, and people came to the fence demarking the boundaries of the lives and spaces on the other side and left teddy bears and ribbons and notes. The royal anniversary of Diana's death will contain no living fences but mourners still gathered at the Kensington gate while the official tribute held elsewhere was invitation-only. People today marked the fence with mementos.
I, too, watched both events unfold on tv -- her death story unfolding and the OKC bombing coverage. I lived in Texas at the time where crosses had started popping up at the sides of roads demarking the place of deaths. Hispanic memori mentos, these markers on the spots are called descanyos* and their increasing frequency of appearances along highways correlated with the rising rates of immigration across our southern border.
JFK's death never spurred people to place flowers and mementos on the place but it was the first where everyone watched the family grieve on national tv, standing at the curb as the body rolled by.
Now when a death occurs in a public place, this recognition-at-the-place is how we mark it. The fences are cleaned up at Kensington Palace and they are kept clean at the World Trade Center site, too, where the mementos are official - top-down, rather than a place for the bottom-up expressions of sadness from the common people.
Media might be changing the way we express our grief. Sadness at the fences.
*descanyo is spelled descano with the n having a tilde but I don't know how to type that Spanish letter.
image credit: right, Kensington Palace, Shaun Curry, Bloomberg News, front page online NYTimes today; lower right Wikipedia; left: AP photo of mourner at the Gate of Kensington, on today's online front page of the Washington Post