After Vice President Mike Pence and Congressional leaders opened the honors for America’s 41st President, the general public filed into the Capitol Rotunda by the hundreds late into Monday night, offering their own support for the late President George H.W. Bush, who died last Friday at the age of 94.
Whether wearing a winter scarf with the stars and stripes or a small child carrying an American flag, people of all walks of life quietly soaked in the moment inside the Capitol Rotunda, as a military honor guard stood by.
Outside in the cold, thousands of people had been lining up for hours to enter the Rotunda for a few minutes in order to get their glimpse of the flag-draped coffin; earlier, Vice President Pence said Mr. Bush had been an inspiration for the nation.
“There was a kindness about the man that was evident to everyone who ever met him,” Pence said in the initial ceremonies at the Capitol.
Officials planned to keep the doors of the Capitol open all night on Monday and Tuesday night if there were still people in line to pay their respects; the public viewing is scheduled to end by 7 am on Wednesday morning.
The were no lack of people in line as President Trump came to the Capitol for his own quick moment to view President Bush’s casket.
For those of us who report on Capitol Hill – and those who work in the halls of Congress, this was a historic day as well – and as the President’s casket arrived people scurried to a window to catch a quick view of the historic proceedings.
It’s the first time that a former President has been so honored at the U.S. Capitol since Gerald Ford died in late 2006.
When the black hearse arrived bearing the body of former President Bush, I rushed down the hallway in the Capitol to a window just above and to the side of the main ceremonial entrance to the Rotunda.
It only took a few minutes for one my colleagues to join me. And then another. And then a couple of people who work in the Capitol.
And soon there was a group of us in there – as we were watching from the men’s room. (I kid you not.)
It didn’t matter who we were. It didn’t matter who the reporters were. We all took some turns taking pictures.
It was a historic moment.
As I walked back to my work space, several reporters were gathered by another window, looking out on the Capitol plaza.
“I just wanted to see it,” one said.
And so did hundreds and hundreds of other Americans.