Witnessing History

Yesterday began in its usual way with a gentle snuggle with my partner at dawn, then rising to prepare a nice big breakfast, then caring for my aunt for a while. At noon, I went to a park where my bike club was having its annual picnic. Despite dire forecasts, it didn’t rain. I chatted with my buddies, had a little bit to eat, then left.

When I got home, my partner told me that “somebody” came by and left a message. It turned out to be someone I grew up with. I called her on the phone, and she asked me to go with her into downtown DC to watch Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral procession and prayer service at the U.S. Capitol building.

Ordinarily, I try to avoid these types of things due to the crowds, dealing with the heat, and challenges with getting anywhere with a view. Usually, you can see things like that on TV better than in person.

But my friend really wanted me to go with her, and gave me an ultimatum: “you be ready because I’ll be there in five minutes.” I didn’t even change out of my jeans and Chippewa Firefighter boots … I just followed orders.

We had a long talk while driving there, about what the Senator meant to her, what she learned by working for one of his colleagues and working with his staff, and what he meant to me, too, and our country.

My friend had a place to park waiting for her. We were able to stand right on the street and watch for the motorcade.

The motorcade was about an hour and a half late, and in that heat and humidity, it was a bit of a struggle to wait for it. Thank goodness those boots are so comfortable. We sat on the curb for a while, and my friend found a street vendor who sold her some cold sodas and a couple hot dogs.

The spirit of the crowd was palpable. Lots of people had many stories to share — my friend included. We talked with a lot of people around us, each of whom had an interesting anecdote, humorous remembrance, or tale of the late Senator’s legendary accomplishments and how he did his work. I remember meeting him once when he came to the office where my mother worked when I happened to be there, but that was a long, long time ago.

Soon I heard the rumble of some police Harleys, and then the hearse drove by with the Kennedy family in limos behind it. I was seeing history in the making. It was fascinating to watch. The crowd broke out into spontaneous applause as Mrs. Kennedy got out and greeted a bunch of people across from where I was standing. Her family also briefly visited with his staff who were waiting there. A priest said a few prayers, one of the Senator’s children thanked the staff, and then they left to go to Arlington National Cemetery where the Senator will be buried with the Late President J. F. Kennedy and the late Senator and Attorney General, R. F. Kennedy — his brothers.

Surprisingly, it didn’t take us much time to get home.

I am glad my friend asked me to go with her. So many things happen in DC that are history-making. I’m close, but I do not live in the city, and avoid going into Washington on evenings and weekends if I can avoid it due to the noise, crowds, and hassles with security (and simply the fact that I am not an urban guy). But as I think about it, I realize that I am among very few who can witness history in person — events like this one or daily history of just what happens in Washington DC — and how fortunate I am to live near our country’s capital, and work right in its heart. Kinda amazing, when you think about it.

Life is short: work toward your goals and never give up, as Mr. Kennedy did. May he rest in peace, and God bless his soul.