Mourners are waiting up to 14 hours to pay their last respects to the late Queen Elizabeth, who died Sept. 8 at the age of 96
British government officials on Friday morning temporarily closed the back of the line for those waiting to see Queen Elizabeth II lie in state at Westminster Hall, preventing new people wishing to pay their respects from joining the ongoing queue.
Wait times for visitors had reportedly stretched to 14 hours, NBC News reported, with the line measuring at nearly 5 miles.
Steady updates on the queue have been provided on Twitter by the United Kingdom Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The account said on Friday morning, just before 10 a.m. local time, that entry to the line would be paused “for at least 6 hours” after Southwark Park “reached capacity.”
“We are sorry for any inconvenience,” a tweet from the agency read. “Please do not attempt to join the queue until it re-opens. Check back for further updates.”
HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN'S LYING-IN-STATE QUEUE UPDATE, 09:50 AM, 16 Sept
Southwark Park has reached capacity. Entry will be paused for at least 6 hours. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Please do not attempt to join the queue until it re-opens.
Check back for further updates pic.twitter.com/XMpyhOrme7
— Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (@DCMS) September 16, 2022
The Queen died on Sept. 8 at the age of 96.
Hundreds of thousands of mourners have since come in coach loads, by train and by car from all four corners to to view Her Majesty lying in state.
She’ll remain in Westminster Hall, where public visitors can view her coffin 24/7 until the early hours of Monday morning, when state funeral festivities will begin.
PEOPLE spoke to one who already walked through the line: Isabella Heffernan, a 19-year-old American student studying bio-ethics at Stanford University.
Heffernan waited five hours in line to file past the late monarch’s coffin.
“I personally don’t have a connection to the Queen, but I thought it’s a moment in history,” Heffernan told PEOPLE. “She reigned for 70 years, and it’s something you’re never going to get again.”
She added, “It’s something you will tell your kids and your grandkids about, and it’s a moment in the history books — and to me, that was the important thing.”
Heffernan, a Rhode Island native, was visiting family in Dublin, Ireland when Queen Elizabeth died last week at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
“I immediately bought a ticket to come here,” she said about hearing the news.
The student said that with her family from Northern Ireland, “political tensions with England are not easy.” When she called her father to tell him she was heading to London, he “was less than happy” but understood.
“I’m really into history, and when you have the opportunity to experience a historical moment, it’s so important to do so,” Heffernan added.
Heffernan described the atmosphere inside Westminster Hall as “sorrowful but grateful.”
“You could tell this meant so much to people,” she explained. “When people go on tours to the U.S. Capitol, it’s more laid back. But here, it was like their own grandmother had died. That’s the way it felt, which was actually shocking but also amazing and interesting to see.”
She said, “I just can’t get over how much people seem to connect with her because I’ve met a couple of political figures. I’ve met Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders and state senators when I was younger, and you didn’t have that deep connection. You’d hear about a funeral and would feel kind of sad. But the Queen has given her life to service, and her people are so grateful, which to me was a really surprising thing to see.”[via]