Thou­sands salute Bush on fi­nal train ride

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By No­maan Mer­chant, Juan A. Lozano and Will Weis­sert

COL­LEGE STA­TION, TEXAS >> Thou­sands waved and cheered along the route as fu­neral train No. 4141 — for the 41st pres­i­dent — car­ried Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s re­mains to their fi­nal rest­ing place on Thurs­day, his last jour­ney as a week of na­tional re­mem­brance took on a de­cid­edly per­sonal feel in an emo­tional home state farewell.

Some peo­ple laid coins along the tracks that wound through small town Texas so a 420,000-pound lo­co­mo­tive pulling the na­tion’s first fu­neral train in nearly half a cen­tury could crunch them into sou­venirs. Oth­ers snapped pic­tures or crowded for views so close that po­lice he­li­copters over­head had to warn them back. El­e­men­tary stu­dents hoisted a ban­ner sim­ply read­ing “THANK YOU.”

The scenes rem­i­nis­cent of a by­gone era fol­lowed the more somber tone of a fu­neral ser­vice at a Hous­ton church, where Bush’s for­mer sec­re­tary of state and con­fi­dant for decades, James Baker, ad­dressed him as “jefe,” Span­ish for “boss.” At times chok­ing back tears, Baker praised Bush as “a beau­ti­ful hu­man be­ing” who had “the courage of a war­rior. But when the time came for pru­dence, he main­tained the greater courage of a peace­maker.”

Baker also of­fered Bush as a con­trast to to­day’s di­vi­sive, some­times vit­ri­olic pol­i­tics, say­ing that his “wish for a kinder, gen­tler na­tion was not a cyn­i­cal po­lit­i­cal slo­gan. It came hon­est and un­guarded from his soul.”

“The world be­came a bet­ter place be­cause Ge­orge Bush oc­cu­pied the White House for four years,” said Baker.

As the post-fu­neral mo­tor­cade car­ry­ing Bush’s re­mains later sped down a closed high­way from the church to the train sta­tion, con­struc­tion work­ers on all lev­els of an un­fin­ished build­ing paused to watch. A man sit­ting on a Fer­ris wheel near the aquar­ium waved.

Bush’s body was later loaded onto a spe­cial train fit­ted with clear sides so peo­ple could catch a glimpse of the cas­ket as it rum­bled by. The train trav­eled about 70 miles — the first pres­i­den­tial fu­neral train jour­ney since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s re­mains went from Wash­ing­ton to his na­tive Kansas 49 years ago — to the fam­ily plot on the grounds of Bush’s pres­i­den­tial li­brary at Texas A&M Univer­sity. Bush’s fi­nal rest­ing place is along­side his wife, Bar­bara, and Robin Bush, the daugh­ter they lost to leukemia at age 3.

In the town of Pine­hurst, 55-year-old Doug Allen left eight coins on the tracks be­fore the train passed — three quar­ters, three dimes and two pen­nies. The train left the coins flat­tened and slightly dis­col­ored.

“It’s some­thing we’ll al­ways keep,” Allen said.

Andy Gor­don, 38, took his 6-year-old daugh­ter, Ad­di­son, out of school so she and her 3-year-old sis­ter, Ashtyn, could see the train pass.

“Hope­fully, my chil­dren will re­mem­ber the sig­nif­i­cance and the mean­ing of to­day,” Gor­don said. Ad­di­son was car­ry­ing two small Amer­i­can flags in her hand.

The train ar­rived in Col­lege Sta­tion in the late af­ter­noon with a mil­i­tary band play­ing “Hail to the Chief” and then Texas A&M’s “Ag­gie War Hymn.”

About 2,100 cadets in their tan dress uni­forms with jack­ets and ties and knee-high boots waited for hours on a cold, gray day to line the road —known as Bar­bara Bush Drive— to the Bush li­brary’s front doors. The U.S. Navy con­ducted a 21 strike fighter fly­over, a salute to the World War II Navy pi­lot, fol­lowed by a 21-gun can­non salute on the ground.

DAVID J. PHILLIP — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The flag-draped cas­ket of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush is car­ried by a joint ser­vices mil­i­tary honor guard Thurs­day in Spring, Texas, as it is placed on a Union Pa­cific train.

GER­ALD HER­BERT — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple pay their re­spects as the train car­ry­ing the cas­ket of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush passes through Nava­sota, Texas Thurs­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.