November 26, 2022

Creston woman observes queen’s funeral

Some of those comments made during the college years have probably been laughed off dozens of times.

Davida (Moffitt) Suiter kept her word.

Suiter, a 2000 Creston High graduate, followed through some 20 years later promising to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth which was held Sept. 19.

“A girlfriend I went to college (Iowa State) with were fascinated by the royal family,” Suiter said after her trip about Victoria Ostlund who is from Connecticut. Suiter lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Suiter’s interest in the royal family started during her high school days, highlighted by the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

“(Prince) William and Kate got married and we were in that phase of our life. One day I said it’d be neat to see King Charles’ coronation with all the pomp and circumstance. A few years into it, I said a funeral would be more and a lot more people will be at a funeral.”

Although she said she never denied saying that, she did not think she’d actually do it.

“It’ just like when your team goes to a major bowl game. You look at tickets, ‘Nah, I won’t do this,” she said.

She did it anyway.

The queen’s death was announced Sept. 8. That’s when Suiter started planning the trip. Still not knowing the actual funeral date, she reserved a hotel room five minutes after the news broke. Her husband supported her goals of attending. The Sept. 19 funeral date was confirmed the ensuing weekend.

“Then I started looking at flights. Buyer’s remorse hit. Do we do this? I was on the phone all day trying to find cheaper flights,” she said. Suiter had never been to London before.

“I didn’t know squat. I know I’m going to be gone for a while,” she said. She did not have any hassle taking time off from her job.

Acquaintances who were familiar with London provided the two advice on the city and country. The two arrived in London at about 7 a.m. Sept. 16.

Suiter tuned into BBC, a popular British media outlet, that was constantly providing information and changes about the entire funeral .

“It was changing because such a large crowd was expected. We had to be fluid and do what it takes,” she said.

At about 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, a majority of the city started shutting down. The two’s strategy was changing. The Queen had been lying in state at Westminster Hall.

“We went back to the hotel and started camping at about 5 p.m. for the funeral the next day. There were some people who had camped on the streets of London for 19 hours.” Suiter was informed crowds near Buckingham Palace were “huge, huge, huge.”

She met a group of British women who were probably in their 70s and had camped before for royal weddings.

“They knew how to bring fun to the line,” she said. “They were fascinating.”

Suiter and Ostlund were simply nicknamed by others for what they were waiting; Suiter in a bright yellow jacket and Ostuland wearing a pink hat. “The Americans with the yellow coat and pink hat,” Suiter laughed.

London media agencies were reporting a 10-mile path of mourners were lining up in London to pay respects. She was part of that 10-mile mass of humanity.

“It was snaking through neighborhoods. People were on their porches eating dinner as people were walking in front of them all day long,” Suiter said. The line was moving as Suiter said it never “had to stop, but it was a slow pace.”

City officials had installed portable-toilets along the routes of mourners. Suiter said people were respectful of others’ place in line.

She estimated she was 2 miles away when the line did stop so officials could rehearse the funeral service.

“That was defeating,” she said.

Suiter said the last 1.5 miles was a zig-zag of railings used to force people to walk in a line and in a condensed area. When close enough, airport-like security procedures were used.

“Once you got through the security, it was surreal moment,” she said.

Suiter said she was about a half-basketball court away from the casket. During the procession, she was able to catch a glimpse of King Charles and many other members of the royal family.

“Grand is not big enough word to describe the experience,” she said.

The actual funeral that drew presidents and many other world leaders.

A bell chimes 96 times — once a minute for each year of Elizabeth’s life. Inside Westminster Abbey about 2,000 people including those world leaders were part of the service.

The coffin was followed into the church by generations of the queen’s relatives including King Charles III, heir to the throne Prince William, George, 9, who is second in line.

At a private family service, the queen was laid to rest with her husband, Prince Philip at royal chapel of Windsor.

“Some people want to hike Everest or run marathons,” Suiter said. “This was my goal.”

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.