With the American flag at half-staff, the U.S. Capitol was readied on Sunday for the Monday arrival of the casket bearing the body of the 41st President of the United States, as members of the military practiced their roles in honoring the late President George H.W. Bush, who will be the twelfth President to be honored with a Lying in State ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.
With the building closed off to tourists, the middle of the Rotunda floor was already occupied by the Lincoln Catafalque, so named for its historic role in bearing the casket of the slain President in 1865; the wooden platform of pine boards covered in black cloth – has been used ever since when important Americans are honored at the U.S. Capitol.
Inside the Rotunda on Sunday, various members of the Military District of Washington – who are responsible for such ceremonial events as this – were practicing for their role in carrying the casket bearing the former President’s remains, and to stand continuous, round-the-clock guard during the ceremonies in the Rotunda.
As workers from the Capitol were setting up chairs, camera platforms, and more inside the Rotunda, members of various branches of the military services brought in a coffin, and practiced placing it on the historic Lincoln Catafalque.
Outside on the East Plaza of the Capitol, a lone Hearse was parked out front, part of the practice going on outside, which also involved members of the U.S. Navy band, dressed in their familiar black uniforms and white hats, with some of their larger instruments leaned up against the historic marble outside the Capitol.
The plaza was closed off to the public on a cloudy, misty, and somewhat chilly day, as the Capitol was a beehive of preparation; the former President’s casket will arrive at 4:30 pm ET, and will then be carried up the center steps of the Capitol, and into the Rotunda.
None of this is new for the Military District of Washington, ready to display the precise military traditions involved when Presidents are so honored at the Capitol.
After a small arrival ceremony on Monday, the doors will be opened to the public at 7 pm, and are expected to stay open as long as people are in line, possibly all night on Monday and Tuesday nights.
The late President’s casket will be taken Wednesday morning a few miles to the National Cathedral, where a state funeral service will be held; the President’s body will then be taken back to Texas for a final burial ceremony.
“I’m grateful today for George H.W. Bush, who helped usher in freedom around the world while yearning for kinder, gentler politics here at home,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), as tributes continued to pour in from both sides of the political aisle.
“While I did not always agree with him, his lifelong commitment to public service will continue to inspire generations to come,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
“President George H.W. Bush was a statesman and patriot who served our country with dedication,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN).
“President George H.W. Bush dedicated his life to faithful and honorable service to our country,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).
“President George H. W. Bush was one of the most honorable people in politics I’ve ever met,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX).