The Last Kennedy Brother
Last Wednesday, we all woke up to the news that Senator Ted Kennedy had passed away. He’d been in the Senate since the age of 30, serving the Bay State for 47 years.
Saturday, we all woke up to news-channel remembrances and the funeral being broadcast from the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston before his internment at Arlington National Cemetery, next to two of his three brothers (the fourth, and eldest, Joe Jr. was killed in WWII and never recovered). While I was watching, I decided to head down to view the procession as it went down Memorial Drive to the cemetery. I’d seen the Reagan and Ford funeral processions so making the trip down to ANC would just be keeping up my own little tradition. (Story continues after the jump.)
I hopped on the Metro and arrived on Memorial Drive at about 3 PM. I wasn’t alone, but when I first arrived there were more press than anything else. However, as the hot day wore on, more and more arrived to wave goodbye to a popular figure in DC, and the last Kennedy Brother. Some mourners arrived with homemade signs, some had chairs to relax on, some had umbrellas to hide from the sun. The really smart folks brought their own snacks and water – we ended up waiting in the muggy heat for several hours longer than we had expected due to bad weather in Boston. The woman next to me checked progress on her Blackberry and kept me posted.
I was next to the visitor’s gate of the cemetery, between the Metro station and the Women in Military Service memorial. The nearby journalists were constantly trawling for interviews, but only a few of us acquiesced. Since the cemetery was open (though the Kennedy burial site closed in preparation), we were treated to hours of entertainment by the senior security man at the entrance. He corralled his folks, the tour buses, the traffic, and us spectators enthusiastically all afternoon long! Only a few protesters were in attendance – the same anti-papists who protested the Pope’s visit last year. They stuck by the Metro station escalators waving their signs.
As the procession began to approach people began to encroach on the roadway, and mounted Park Police came out for crowd control. There was one particular group who didn’t seem to want to move, but a strategic placement of horse-puckey put them back with the rest of us. (It seemed somehow wrong to be laughing with the procession just a few minutes away, but we really couldn’t help it.) With just a few minutes to go, the last group of journos polled for opinion on Kennedy, and why folks had come by. A little boy, perhaps eight years old who was perched on the fence next to me stopped the last reporter just as he was moving away and made a great, heartfelt statement. He was interviewed by Al-Jazeera English – I wonder if he made it on the air? (I don’t get that channel!)
Soon the procession itself arrived, and suddenly the crowd broke out into spontaneous, yet quiet applause. Some people in the crowd called out, “Kennedy! Kennedy!” as the cars and buses carrying attendees went by. And the Kennedys seemed overwhelmed by the affection the crowd showed. I hadn’t realized that they were driving by with the windows open, waving back at the crowd. Vicki Kennedy, the senator’s widow, was simply waving and saying, “Thank you,” over and over. No matter what one might think of them politically, I have to feel that was an amazingly generous thing for them to do. After forty-five years of public funerals, I don’t think anyone would have blamed them if they’d kept the windows closed.