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American faithful pay their respects

Hundreds of thousands of mourners will view the body of Pope John Paul II in advance of his funeral on Friday. NBC's Brian Williams reports from Rome on a few of the faithful who made the pilgrimage from the U.S.

They have come for a final farewell: Thousands of them, in a line that will go on for days, nearly around the clock. Amid the prayers, the songs and the urgent bottled water deliveries, we found folks from home who are here because they felt they had to be.

Alwyn Rodriguez and his wife are from Los Angeles.

"As a Catholic, I guess, I'm pretty devout," he says. "And the pope is the leader of the Church and sort of like an icon for so many people. He's the only pope I've ever known. I didn't know who the old pope was. I've grown up, as a full-fledged adult, with him as the pope."

For Sarah Beckner, it's different: She's a Christian but not Catholic. And she is a huge fan of John Paul II.

"I think he was, of our time, the only one, the only leader, no matter what religion you are, I think he's changed the world," she says. "This is a process that the whole world is going through right now and experiencing. I think that it's becoming a common bond for us all. Whether it's in Rome or anywhere else in the world, it's just incredible."

And for James Berry, who has moved here from Milwaukee to study, a place in line means a chance to bear witness to an event and a giant of our world.

"People, they often call it the 'JP2 Generation' — this generation that grew up with him, his pontificate, and we're totally inspired by him, loyal to him, and it's really remarkable," says Berry. "I don't really know if this is well-known yet, but I think things like this are really proving that. I've been here the past three days, and the amount of young people has been overwhelming. It surprised me. I've always been interested in this phenomenon, but it's remarkable. It gives us all hope. It's a sad moment, but there's so much joy, especially among the young people. It's a great experience."

Alwyn Rodriguez, Sarah Beckner and James Berry: Just three of the young people from America, among the millions expected in Rome over the next few days.