WASHINGTON - A steady stream of tearful mourners, dignitaries, members of law enforcement and schoolchildren paid their respects to former President George H.W. Bush as he lies in state at the U.S. Capitol.
They gathered at the east end of the Capitol by the thousands. Americans of all ages and from a long list of states waited to say goodbye to the 41st president.
“It’s been inspiring to see them all show up,” Texas Rep. Kevin Brady said from his office overlooking the line.
Bush helped Brady win his first campaign in 1996, and remained a friend and mentor over the decades. Today, Brady fills the seat on the Ways and Means committee once occupied by the elder Bush.
Like all members of Congress, Brady was invited inside the Rotunda to witness the private ceremony Monday.
“It was emotional, as you would imagine. It was moving,” Brady said. “Across the rotunda, you could see the Bush family; all of them.”
America’s 41st president died Friday at his home in Houston. He was 94.
People from all over the country spent hours in line to honor Bush.
“President Bush is the first president I ever voted for,” said Carrie Hutchman of Mariana, Ohio. “As he grew older, I always told my family that if anything ever happened to him, that I was going to be one of those people who came when he was lying in state, so my nephew was gracious enough to jump in the car with me at 6 last night and here we are at 3 in the morning."
The late president’s service dog, Sully, also visited the casket Tuesday.
Among the dignitaries that paid their respects was former CIA director John Brennan and former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, who helped plan operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Retired Sen. Bob Dole, of Kansas, who was once Bush's rival for the presidency, also paid his respects. The 95-year-old Dole, who uses a wheelchair, was helped to his feet by an aide and saluted the former commander-in-chief.
Bush is the 11th president to lie in state at the Capitol and among 31 people to have been given the honor. He will lie in state until Wednesday morning, after which his body will be taken to the National Cathedral for a state funeral.
His body will be returned to Houston on Wednesday evening and will lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church until Thursday morning, when he will be eulogized during a funeral at the church.
The late president will be taken by train to College Station, where he will be buried on the grounds of his presidential library at Texas A&M University.
Before the private ceremony and thousands of public mourners, the late president’s flag-draped casket sat in a compartment aboard Air Force One on its way to Washington.
Chase Untermeyer, a Houstonian and former U.S. ambassador under Bush 43 was there, along with his wife.
“Therefore, we could have some very private moments,” Untermeyer said. “I do cherish those few moments there in the quiet of that compartment.”
Untermeyer and the elder Bush met more than a half century ago, when Untermeyer worked on 41’s first congressional campaign.
“The relationship truly was a man who was my second father,” Untermeyer said. “It was being part of that larger Bush world that means so much and which we’re celebrating here in Washington.”
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