NEW YORK — Britain's Prince William and his wife, Kate, laid flowers Tuesday at one of New York City's most somber sites — the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum.
The couple crossed the memorial plaza in pouring rain and wind, each holding a black umbrella. Wearing a hot-pink, double-breasted Mulberry coat, black tights, and black stiletto-heeled pumps, Kate smiled as she spoke with memorial and museum President Joe Daniels. The royals then laid a bouquet at one of two reflecting pools built in the footprints of the fallen towers.
Each is ringed with the chiseled names of the nearly 2,900 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
After paying their respects at the southern pool, William and Kate entered the underground museum that commemorates the attacks.
During their half-hour visit, they descended to the bedrock level that houses exhibits.
Escorted by Daniels and museum director Alice Greenwald, the royals passed two trident-shaped columns preserved from the facade of the fallen north tower and the battered "survivors' staircase" that hundreds used to escape on 9/11.
The duke and duchess also entered the Memorial Hall, a space between the former twin towers' footprints with a wall of blue tiles representing all the 9/11 victims, plus those who died in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Behind the wall lies a repository of unidentified Sept. 11 remains.
The nearby "In Memoriam" exhibition has profiles of the victims. Visitors can leave a message or signature with a stylus on an electronic tablet. Kate and William both signed, writing "Catherine" and "William" in script.
Museum chief of staff Allison Blais said the duchess "talked about how in awe she was of the enormity of the space; it was something she didn't anticipate."
Blais said Kate also spoke about how moving the memorial was and being able to touch the names of the victims.
About a dozen museumgoers awaited William and Kate, smartphones at the ready.
Before leaving the 9/11 site, William and Kate admired the massive, marble-clad lobby of 1 World Trade Center, graced by a large Christmas tree. The recently completed 104-floor skyscraper is the nation's tallest building.
A handful of onlookers braved the wet weather for a glimpse of the royals.
"I love them so much," said Kristina Crossan, a 24-year-old teacher from Middletown, New Jersey. Her mother, Marianne Crossan, called the rain "a small price to pay."
Another New Jersey resident, Krupa Shah, took the day off from her Manhattan finance job.
"I took the day off work when they got married. I didn't go to a family event when Kate was in labor, because I wanted to know what she had," Shah said. "Family will always be there, but there's only one time that Kate has her first baby."
The morning visit to the site where 67 British citizens died — the most of any foreign country — came on the last day of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's trip. Their visit to New York and his to Washington was the first time either of them has visited those cities.
On Tuesday evening, William and Kate were expected at a black-tie fundraiser for the University of St. Andrews, where they both got their degrees.
On Monday, William went to the White House and spoke at a World Bank conference. Kate wrapped Christmas gifts and helped children decorate picture frames while touring a child development center.
On Monday evening, the couple attended a reception at the British consul general's residence co-hosted by the Royal Foundation and the Clinton Foundation. When they arrived, they spent some time talking with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky.
William and Kate then headed to the Barclays Center to watch a basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jay-Z and Beyonce were led across the court between the third and fourth quarters to chat with them, and LeBron James gave them cupcakes and some Cavaliers jerseys.
Before the game, William asked which team he should support, and was told to root for both. The couple met NBA executives and former player Dikembe Mutombo, marking a collaboration that would help raise awareness about animal trafficking.
Next to Mutombo, William said, "At last I'm standing next to someone who is taller than me."
Associated Press writer Julie Pace in New York and Business Writer Tomoko A. Hosaka in Washington contributed to this report.