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WASHINGTON — It was bitterly cold and dark on Capitol Hill as I walked the brick sidewalks leading to the U.S. Capitol. I was heading to pay my respects to President George H.W. Bush, who was lying in state. I have covered major funerals in Washington and seen my fair share of grandiose state events. However, nothing prepared me for what I saw as I approached the Capitol that night.
The process for a president to lie in state is standardized. There is an official arrival ceremony, followed by remarks from gathered political leaders. Family, friends and members of the administration look on as the dearly departed lies in a flag-draped coffin upon the Lincoln Catafalque — the same funeral board upon which Abraham Lincoln’s body rest after his assassination.
Capitol - Rotunda - Location - Passing - Murals
The Capitol rotunda is a stunning location to honor the passing of an American. The murals are patriotic and ornate. The domed ceiling stretches to the sky. The marble halls echo with a reverence for the history of our nation. (RELATED: Here’s A Look Back At George H.W. Bush’s Life In Pictures)
There are statues of great men and women who came before us lining the rotunda. Past authors of the American experiment look on as yet another American joins their ranks.
Ceremony - Bush - Remarks - Leaders - Motions
The ceremony for Bush was short and sweet: some charming remarks from congressional leaders, military motions, a song and prayer. Fittingly, a large, bronze, smiling statue of Ronald Reagan watched the casket of his vice president. After the Bush family had walked past the casket and out of the rotunda, the great hall was opened to mourners who wished to come and pay final respects to their president.
Processing to get in for such an event is grueling for both mourner and those charged with guarding the departed president.
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