Thousands of people gathered outside Buckingham Palace on Thursday to mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The longest-serving monarch of the United Kingdom died Thursday at the age of 96, not long after the royal family announced that doctors were concerned for her health. Flags were lowered to half-staff while people stood under umbrellas to shield themselves from the rain as many laid down flowers to pay their respects. Some people held tins of gin and tonic to honor the queen's drink of choice.
Dot, Maya, and Bohan — college students from New York who didn't want their last names used — had been in the UK for just a couple of weeks on a study abroad program.
Bohan was in his room when he switched on the news and saw the anchor in Scotland announcing the Queen was ill. Maya was in class. Soon they were on their group chat and all came to the palace together.
“It’s just so quick,” Maya said of the Queen’s death.
The group also couldn't believe they were in the UK for such a historic event.
Two friends, Maya, 27, and Ellony, 25, from London, also didn't want their last names used, but said they were close by at an art exhibition when they found out.
"We were watching a performance piece on love and my phone was pinging in my family WhatsApp chat," Maya said. "My mom had shared the BBC article saying the Queen passed away. My mom's been a fan of the royal family since forever, so it's quite sad for her and wanted to share it with us. It was quite a weird time, enjoying art and expressing ourselves and hearing such sad news."
Ellony described the vibe outside the palace as "mixed."
"It feels like everyone is here to pay respect and everyone has the intention of honoring her on the throne, but I also get mixed feelings of celebration. ... We witnessed a guy crying while he was laying some roses down."
Jazmin Rodriguez, 26, a visitor from Mexico who had only been in London for one day, said she was on a walking tour in Westminster when the news of the death broke.
"We looked up and we saw the flag was halfway, helicopters roaming in the sky," she said.
She later came back to pay her respects.