The big news on Capitol Hill today was the lying-in-state of former President George H. W. Bush in the Rotunda of the Capitol. He is the 12th President to be accorded this honor, the first being President Lincoln in 1865. Most recently, Senator John McCain lay there. The last ex-President was Gerald Ford back in 2006-7 (No, he was not there for years, but rather from December 30 to January 2.) This was my first opportunity to see an Ex-President lie here since becoming a tour guide. When I heard that the lines were not too bad, I set off.
The first thing that was clear is that no expense had been spared as far as security was concerned and both Capitol Police and DCFD (seen here) were out in force, (RSP)
The media was also ever-present. (RSP)
Crowds, on the other hand, were not a problem. While these gates were apparently full last night, this morning you could walk right by them. (RSP)
The line to get in the Capitol Visitor Center is usually much longer than this. (RSP)
As this low-quality picture shows, photography was not allowed in the Rotunda. Well, at least to the visitors such as I. There were at least a dozen news photographers, and n equal number of TV camerapeople trying to milk some drama out of a large number of people slowly shuffling by a flag-draped coffin. Highlight of my visit was when the head of the multi-branch honor guard moved his hands from his side to his back, prompting the others to follow suit. Also of note: The catafalque on which Bush’s coffin rested was the one built in 1865 to hold Lincoln’s remains. It is usually on display in the museum of the Capitol Visitor Center. (RSP)
Once out of the Rotunda, I stopped to take this picture back into it. It’s the bright blur at the top center of the picture. (RSP)
The line had gotten a little longer by the time I left, but by no means overwhelming, so if you want to see a rare –and very Capitol Hill– event, you have until 7 a.m. tomorrow morning. (RSP)