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Kennedy funeral: A sense of an era ending

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was laid to rest alongside slain brothers John and Robert at Arlington National Cemetery last night, celebrated for "the dream he kept alive" across the decades since their deaths.
/ Source: WSLS 10

ARLINGTON—Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was laid to rest alongside slain brothers John and Robert at Arlington National Cemetery last night, celebrated for “the dream he kept alive” across the decades since their deaths. After his funeral in Boston, where he was eulogized by President Barack Obama, the Massachusetts senator’s remains were brought to Washington. With flags over the Capitol flying at half-staff, his hearse stopped outside the Senate, where he served for 47 years. His widow, Vicki, embraced former staff members in the crowd. Later, at a graveside enveloped in deepening darkness, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick offered sympathies to Kennedy relatives and “an extended family that must probably include most of America.“ A squad of seven riflemen fired three volleys, and a bugler sounded taps. Lightning flickered across the sky. Kennedy was laid to rest on a gently sloping Virginia hillside, flanked by a pair of maple trees. His brother Robert, killed in 1968 while running for president, lies 100 feet away. It is another 100 to the eternal flame that has burned since 1963 for John F. Kennedy, president when he was assassinated. The youngest brother died Tuesday at 77, more than a year after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. An oak cross, painted white, marked the head of his grave, and a flat marble footstone bore the simple inscription, “Edward Moore Kennedy 1932-2009.“ In life, the senator had visited the military cemetery often to mourn his brothers, killed in their 40s, more than a generation ago, by assassins’ bullets. Earlier, thousands of people bade farewell in Washington as Kennedy’s body was borne over the same route taken by the remains of two of his brothers, along the same broad boulevards, and was mourned as they were by tearful citizens a generation before. As well-wishers sang and cheered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and his motorcade passed the towering stone eagles that watch over the drive to Arlington cemetery, there was a bittersweet sense of something passing, a rich and tragic era finally coming to end. Few who bade Kennedy farewell yesterday had watched his brothers’ funerals pass four decades ago. But on Nov. 25, 1963, Lynnette Wynn, a 21-year-old government employee in the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army, watched from a hillside on Constitution Avenue as President Kennedy’s coffin passed. Wynn said she remembers how beautiful the scene was: the black horse, the throngs of people, the sound of portable transistor radios and televisions broadcasting the funeral in the background. The sidewalks were narrower back then. In 1960s Washington, people were more polite, Wynn said, and those who came to watch the Kennedy services wore their Sunday best, prepared to wait hours to mourn and see history being made. “It was just different,“ Wynn said. “To have their lives cut short so early. There was so much promise before then.“ Five years later, again with her mother and, this time, her oldest daughter, Wynn watched Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s coffin come out of Union Station. It was a warm June evening. She was studying fashion at Prince George’s Community College. She remembers thinking how good a president Bobby would have been. “We just couldn’t believe we were there again,“ Wynn said. Yesterday, Wynn was alone. Her mother and eldest daughter are dead. Wynn, 67, of Springdale in Prince George’s County, Md., is retired after years of making jewelry for her small business. She wanted to pay tribute to Teddy, a man she said did remarkable things as a senator even as he juggled personal tragedy with professional duty. Others also had vivid memories of the Kennedy assassinations or had heard about those sad days from their parents. “It was the first time I saw my mother cry,“ Susan Orochena, 53, of Potomac said of President Kennedy’s death as she waited outside the Capitol yesterday. But the senator’s Washington farewell seemed less wrenching and more celebratory as hundreds thronged the Capitol, Constitution Avenue, Memorial Bridge and the drive leading up to the black-and-gold gates of the cemetery. The weather was sultry and still, and the coo of mourning doves mingled with the summertime hum of cicadas as Washington waited to bury the last of the famous Kennedy brothers. The Kennedy gravesites were closed for the ceremony yesterday but are to reopen today.