PHOENIX – Thousands of endure triple-digit heat Wednesday and wait in long queues outside the Arizona Capitol to attend a public display is in honor of the late Sen. John McCain.
The audience followed the emotional private ceremony attended by the family of McCain, and drew a mix of people — Republicans and Democrats, Arizonans and Californians. A number of them had met McCain. Those who didn’t know him still felt a need to attend.
Parents brought their children, so that they may bear witness of the history. A lot of those in line said they were drawn to the event to honor McCain’s military service. Others said they liked his politics.
And even those who do not always agree with McCain, said that they owed, to pay their respects.
The following is an example of those who waited in one line:
A group of more than 80 Vietnamese residents of Orange County, California, came in two buses. The group wore specially made yellow T-shirts that said: “We greet our hero Senator John McCain.”
Derrick Nguyen, 55, said a radio station in the Little Saigon community announced that it would be for the bus if people want to go pay last respects to McCain.
Nguyen, a lawyer and a community organizer, said more than 100 people signed up immediately, but a number stayed behind in California due to the heat and the timing.
“We are so excited and so touched to have this opportunity to pay respects to the late senator,” Nguyen said.
McCain was beloved to his experience in the fight alongside the South Vietnamese, and for the support of the families of political prisoners. Nguyen said in the 1990s, McCain pushed an amendment to a law that allowed for unmarried, adult children of inmates to come to the United States.
“Many, many of the families that would not have made it to America, it was here. And they are citizens of the united states and the good Americans,” Nguyen said.
John Caccitolo wheels are 4 months old son in a stroller through the long line of people waiting to pay their respects to McCain.
Caccitolo, a staff sergeant in the Army, who drove from Tucson for the public to view, said it was important for him to bring his son, so that he a small piece of the history.
“I wanted him to be able to say that he had been here when he grows up,” Caccitolo said.
Caccitolo said that he never met McCain, but he was under the impression of his military service, including his refusal to take early release as a prisoner of war to his fellow-prisoners were liberated.
“To agree to the stay is pretty incredible,” Caccitolo said. “And if you return (to the usa), you would think that he would want to hang out on the beach. But he wanted to continue serving his country.”
Louis Albin, an artist in Phoenix and a veteran of the Navy, wore a sailor hat and dressed in white to honor McCain and his military service.
His custom-made T-shirt with an image of a thumbs-up-falling stars and stripes of the flag. The image is a play on McCain thumbs down votes that sank President Donald Trump ‘ s repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Albin turned the thumbs-up as a nod to McCain votes, of which Albin approved.
Albin said that he got to know McCain over the years at town hall meetings as the senator responded to the scandal at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in which whistleblowers revealed that veterans on the secret waiting lists are faced with delays in their health care up to a year.
“He knew me,” said Albin. “He did not know my name or anything. But he knew me from the events.”
Albin said he voted for McCain, but he has not always agreed with him. He disapproved of McCain’s role in the savings and loan scandal in the 1980s.
“But as a person, I loved him,” said Albin.
Two groups that traveled to Arizona from San Diego to pay their respects McCain began the wait outside in the approaching triple-digit heat for 7 hours, about six hours before the start of the public viewing.
Mike Foley, a retired developer, bought a ticket to Phoenix after hearing of McCain’s coffin would lie in the old state capitol.
“The question is what can I do to the glory of the man, and support,” Foley said. “I just wanted to be here.”
With him were Barry and Linda Blood, who separately made the approximately five-hour drive Tuesday night. “He embodies what I think our ancestors hoped that our country would be,” Linda Blood said.
Just for the San Diego contingent was Regina Akerson, 17, who also arrived around 7 o’clock in the morning, She is a Phoenix high school who wrote a report about McCain its first year.
This year, she must attend a government ceremony for a class and decided she could wait hours in the sun to pay her respects to McCain and to meet that requirement.
“He is a legend,” she said. “I’ve always respected him.”
Kassandra Morales stood in line with her sons, ages 8 and 2. The single mother and the Democrat, who was also a bouquet of flowers, said she always looked up to McCain.
“I have seen John McCain since I was 18 years old,” she said. “Even though I was a Democrat, I always voted for John McCain.”
A mother of 10, Morales plans to come back later in the day with her older children.
“Yesterday, I asked my son who his hero was. He gave me the name of a rapper,” Morales said. “I have my children here and show them what a real hero.”
Ray Riordan, an 87-year-old Navy veteran, who fought in the War in korea, came from Payson, Arizona, to see McCain lie in state.
“I’ve always admired, especially when he was a maverick,” Riordan said.
He said that he felt a kinship with McCain in that they both grew up in an era where “respect is one of the cornerstones of life.”
“I grew up where a handshake was a contract, and your word was your bond,” Riordan said. “He represented the last of that, as far as I’m concerned.”
“He was one of those who stood up for things,” he said. “Everyone else is all focused on the party, not the people.”
Phil Hubbard, a health care recruiter who lives in Scottsdale, kept cold water bottles in each of his hands, while he waited outside the statehouse complex in the midday heat waiting for his honor to McCain.
Hubbard, who voted for McCain, but never had an encounter with him, said that he was attracted to the public to honor McCain’s approach in defending his principles.
McCain showed that people should stand up for their beliefs, regardless of how they are received.
“He believed in something,” Hubbard said. “That is what he has done, and that is what a lot of people have to do in this country. If you believe in something, stand up, or that it is popular or not.”
Richard Blanco, Glendale, Arizona, said McCain’s service to his country inspired him to attend the public viewing.
Blank said he was impressed by McCain’s refusal to parole as a prisoner of war to his fellow-prisoners were liberated.
If McCain was shot down over Vietnam and taken prisoner, his father was ready to take command over the entire Pacific theater, and his captors knew they had a potential propaganda coup on their hands.
“To know who his father was, he could have been from that camp so quickly, but he chose not to do that,” Blanco said. “And I think that alone says so much about him, about who he is and what he stood for.”
Blanco, who voted for McCain, he didn’t always agree with him. But that is already good, Blank said.
“If we are able to simply allow these differences to go and see him for the man he was and for the life that he lived, you are able to look beyond a lot of those things — and it doesn’t really matter,” Blank said. “There should be more men like John McCain.”
Jesus Rojas, a mariachi singer, strummed his guitar while singing “Cielito Lindo “, as a tribute outside the state Capitol.
Rojas said he lived in the neighborhood of McCain’s ranch in Cornville, Arizona, for 15 years. He said that he and his family regularly entertain parties at the McCain’s house.
“When I see the news, it makes me really bad,” Rojas said. “I tell my family and I come here and play for him.”
Christian Albrecht, an air force veteran from Peoria, Arizona, waited nearly an hour to see McCain’s coffin. When he did, he opted for a verbal tribute in the form of a typical military cry.
“He deserves that respect. It is the ultimate form of respect you can give to someone,” Albrecht said.
Albrecht said: the chance to see him, was very moving and a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Nancy Gottschalk of Cottonwood, Arizona, decided at the last moment Wednesday morning to leave work and pick up her 5-year-old son, Joseph, and come to the statehouse.
“I’m a registered Democrat. I don’t know that I’ve ever voted for John McCain, but I just love how much I respect him,” she said.
Gottschalk, who cracks after, said she knew that the experience was very emotional. Upon stepping in close to his chest, she and Joseph made the gesture for “thank you” in sign language.
“I just wanted Joseph to see the life of a person to pursue,” she said. “One day, he will understand why I picked him up from school.”