Bush laid to rest at presidential library
More than 2,000 students in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets stood at attention along the road as President George H.W. Bush’s casket was driven to his presidential library and final resting place in College Station, Texas.
Bush was buried on the grounds Thursday, beside wife, Barbara Bush, and daughter Robin, who died at age 3 from leukemia.
The service was private. But overhead, beneath an overcast sky and in the drizzling rain, the Navy performed an unprecedented “missing man” formation with 21 aircraft. The jets flew in groups of four and in the final passover a single aircraft peeled off from the rest, signifying the loss of an aviator.
Afterward, the sounds of a 21-gun salute reverberated across the grounds.
Bush chose Texas A&M in 1991 to host his presidential library and a graduate school of government and public service. A Navy pilot, Bush’s plane was shot down over the Pacific in World War II. He was rescued and went on to have a 40-year career in public service.
Earlier Thursday, thousands waved and cheered along the route as funeral train No. 4141 — for the 41st president — carried Bush’s remains to their final resting place, 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 420,000pound 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 a serious and more somber tone at an earlier 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 provided a contrast with today’s divisive political rhetoric, saying Bush’s “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 in two-plus hours — 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.
In the town of Cypress, 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 in Pinehurst, Texas.
“Hopefully, my children will remember the significance and the meaning of today,” Gordon said. Addison was carrying two small American flags in her hand.
Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, leave St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston after the funeral service for his father, former President George H.W. Bush, on Thursday.