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Flowers bloom, people weep at dark tunnel of Diana’s final passage

August 31, 1997

PARIS (AP) _ One by one and in tiny bouquets, a mound of flowers grew in the dark tunnel beneath the Place de l’Alma where the fast life of a fabled princess came to a sudden end.

``I am British, and she was my princess,″ said Malcolm Livesey, a teacher and musician in Paris for 25 years, after solemnly adding white blooms to the pile in homage to Lady Di.

He woke at 7 a.m. and switched on the BBC, as he does every Sunday. ``At first, I thought the Queen Mother had died. Suddenly, I realized it was Diana. It still has not sunk in.″

He hurried across Paris to peer into the tunnel, just across from the Eiffel Tower. Then he returned home and came back with all he could find: a bunch of tired gladioli from his table.

Diana and her companion, Dodi Fayed, were driven at high speed into the short tunnel along the Seine River with motorcycle-mounted photographers hot on their tail.

The driver’s left wheel struck the curb, and his Mercedes hit a pillar. It flipped across the right lane and smashed, roof first, into the tiled wall. Fayed died instantly; Diana three hours later at Hospital la Pitie Salpetriere.

In the predawn hours, a few people came to the tunnel. One young Japanese woman stared in disbelief, and she walked away dazed.

By early morning, police opened the tunnel to traffic and to pedestrians who came to weep or gawk.

David Azoulay, a young businessman, spent the entire morning. His dried flowers soon disappeared under red roses, delicate summer blooms and a potted plant.

``Can you believe the bad luck,″ he repeated. ``The 13th pillar.″

A floating crowd of about 100 came and went until police again blocked the entrance. Some snapped photos of their husbands and wives in the tunnel, with almost a macabre glee to be part of history.

Many expressed fury that sensation-seeking photographers had caused the tragedy, extending their ire to the press in general.

One man, apparently an African diplomat from a nearby embassy, hurried to the scene with a cellophane-wrapped bouquet. When approached by a reporter, he snarled: ``Go to hell with your stories.″

But Aurelina Goncalves, a Portuguese concierge who wept softly, was eager to talk about her grief. She had loved Diana since the royal wedding, she said, and she felt close to her.

``It is such a shame that she came to Paris for this,″ she said. ``She needed to have some happiness in her life.″

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