Thousands line up at the Capitol to pay last respects to McCain

Elizabeth Howe
August 31, 2018 - 4:26 pm

Regardless of branch or background and despite the heat and sun, thousands lined up on First Street today to pay their last respects to John McCain in the United States Capitol rotunda. Those in line could expect a wait of multiple hours, but no one seemed deterred as the line continued to grow. Red Cross volunteers passed out water, law enforcement directed visitors into lines and supporters shared their own stories about McCain.

“I’ve followed him politically almost from the get-go,” said veteran Kevin Hyland. “I’ve been a political supporter when he ran for president I supported him and I’m here to support him today. Just here to say goodbye.”

Lansing Williams, a Vietnam veteran who served from 1968-1970, shared similar sentiments though his statement stopped short when he was overcome with emotion.

“I had a tremendous deal of respect for him,” said Williams.

Veterans, of course, weren’t the only ones in line to pass through the rotunda. Parents pushed strollers, summer interns sweat in suits and uniformed military service members stood throughout the line. Some groups waited in line in matching shirts or holding signs like the Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association. They held a sign that read, “The Vietnamese Political Prisoner Children Will Never Forget the Man Who Saved Our Lives: Senator John McCain.”

The diversity of supporters more than willing to stand in such a long line was reminiscent of the unification McCain encouraged throughout his career.

“I worked on 2008 campaign,” said Cecelia Bitanga Kramer. “There was such a diverse group of people who worked with me, and I thought it was admirable that so many people were supporting him. Just like today.”

The rotunda opened to the public at 1 p.m., but visitors lined up as early as 7:30 a.m. that morning. One of the first visitors to enter the rotunda was Marie Love.

“When he left Vietnam and came home, he didn’t have to do anything else for America,” said Love. “But he decided he was going to be a congressman, a senator, he wanted to be president of the United States. He cared that much about this country, about America, about us as people. He wanted to continue to serve. That’s why I had to be here. I admired that man.”