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Mourners Stream Into the Capitol to Pay Tribute to President Bush


Mourners Stream Into the Capitol to Pay Tribute to President Bush

WASHINGTON — One by one they came. Parents hoisting toddlers on their hips. Two women from St. Louis, in town for a neonatology conference. A doctor from Washington whose grandmother had worked in housekeeping in the White House complex. And Sully the service dog.

As the body of Former President George Bush lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday, mourners from across the country poured into the Capitol to pay tribute to a man whose inaugural vision of a “kinder” and “gentler” Republicanism has become a relic of another era.

Some, like William Knox of Austin, Tex., came out of simple curiosity. He was in town for a wedding, and decided to drop by. Others, like Sue Ameiss and Patricia Nash of St. Louis, who were attending the neonatology conference, considered it “an honor,” as Ms. Ameiss said, “to be able to come and pay our respects.”

And some, like Wyatt Glennon, a seventh grader from Northwest Washington, came because their parents thought they should. Accompanied by his mother, Wyatt left a note in the condolence book for the former president, thanking him for “taking this great nation to new heights.”

“I don’t know much about his individual acts,” he said in an interview, “but I know that he was president of the United States, and that’s enough for me.”


Mourners waiting in line on Tuesday to pass the coffin, which was watched over by a military guard.CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, former Bush aides were planning to have a memorial of their own Tuesday evening: At 6:41 p.m., they planned to gather at Lafayette Park across the street from the White House to shine electric candles or their cellphone flashlights into the night sky — a recreation of the “thousand points of light” that Mr. Bush, the 41st president, spoke of as a way to promote volunteerism. (President Trump, who once mocked the initiative, paid his respects to Mr. Bush with a visit to the Rotunda on Monday night.)

The sailors on the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush, the Navy aircraft carrier and namesake of the former president, also plan on a “thousand points of light” commemoration, and organizers are encouraging charities across the country to do the same at 6:41 p.m. local time.

Tuesday’s visitation came as official Washington, and members of the Bush family, prepared for his funeral service on Wednesday morning at the National Cathedral. The services in Washington will be attended by nearly a dozen current and former heads of state, including Prince Charles; King Abdullah II of Jordan and his wife, Queen Rania; and Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland.

The Central Intelligence Agency, which Mr. Bush once headed, also paid its respects on Tuesday. Gina Haspel, the current director, and two former directors — John O. Brennan and George Tenet, were among those filing past the coffin.

Inside the Capitol Rotunda, it was quiet except for the clicking of shoes as the guards changed places and the rapid-fire shutters of cameras when Sully was led into the hall with a group of wounded veterans and other disabled people around 11 a.m.

The yellow Labrador was paired with Mr. Bush earlier this year, shortly after the death of his wife, Barbara, to help provide companionship and retrieve things for the former president, who had a form of Parkinson’s disease that required him to use a wheelchair or a scooter.

A view of the Capitol on Tuesday.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

The dog’s appearance — he was escorted by his trainer and Tom Ridge, a longtime friend of Mr. Bush and the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania — was intended to spotlight the president’s role in passing the Americans With Disabilities Act. The 1990 law bars discrimination against people with disabilities, and required public buildings throughout the nation to become more accessible to them.

“The fact that President Bush signed into law the A.D.A. is one of the most important things that has happened in this country’s history and to me and my family,” said Rob Pedigo, 38, of Winchester, Ky., who was paralyzed in an auto accident 20 years ago. He came with his wife and their young son to view the coffin alongside Sully, who circled the coffin.

Mr. Pedigo was one of many here on Tuesday who came to add a sentiment to what others had already shared: Their admiration for Mr. Bush’s service. That his presidential election was the first one they could remember. The name of a relative who served in World War II the way Mr. Bush did.

Clifford Binkley, 67, and Gail Daleiden, 56, met waiting in the line, snaking through the crypt underneath the rotunda, to see. Tears pooling in their eyes, they swapped stories about the military service of their sons and their assertion of what an autopsy could never prove: that Mr. Bush died of a broken heart, missing his wife of 73 years.

“There’s peace with it now,” Mr. Binkley, a Vietnam veteran, said. “He’s where he needed to be. Barbara’s waiting for him.”

A resident of Huntsville, Ala., and a Vietnam veteran who spent 31 years in the Army, Mr. Binkley caught a 5 a.m. flight to Washington to pay his respects — “an old soldier to an old soldier,” he said. He would spend only about three hours in Washington, shuttling between the airport and the Capitol.

Ms. Daleiden, visiting Washington with her husband from Georgetown, Tex., said simply: “This is where I needed to be.”

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