Kennedy to Be Buried at Arlington, Near Brothers
Wednesday, August 26, 2009; 6:29 PM
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the political patriarch who died late Tuesday after a 15-month battle with brain cancer, will be buried Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery, close to the famed gravesites of his slain brothers.
As tributes poured in Wednesday from across the country and the world, Washington mourned the Massachusetts Democrat whose outsize personality and political skills continued to drive the health-care debate even in his final days.
Flags were ordered flown at half-staff at the U.S. Capitol, the White House and federal buildings. Across the Potomac River at the nation's military cemetery, photographers and camera crews were escorted to the flickering orange flame and polished marble gravestones that mark the final resting places of John F. Kennedy, assassinated in 1963, in the third year of his presidency, and Robert F. Kennedy, killed nearly five years later during his own White House campaign.
At national landmarks, tourists and federal workers paused to remember the last surviving Kennedy brother, an American legend known for his political prowess as well as his personal failings, his charisma as well as his storied family tree.
"The Kennedys were the first royal family that we had," said Kenneth Nielsen, 64, a retired college math teacher from Greencastle, Pa., who was sightseeing on Capitol Hill. "That mystique was carried over. . . . They were destined."
President Obama plans to speak at Kennedy's funeral service Saturday morning at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston, according to a senior White House official.
Kennedy, 77, attended the church each day while his daughter Kara successfully battled cancer at a nearby hospital, according to a statement from the family. "Over time, the Basilica took on special meaning for him as a place of hope and optimism," the statement said.
A three-day memorial will begin early Thursday morning, when a motorcade departs the family compound on Hyannis Port, Mass., for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, where Kennedy's body will lie in repose. On Friday night, a private "Celebration of Life Memorial Service" will be held at the library.
By 5 p.m. Saturday, Kennedy will be buried during a private ceremony at the cemetery in Arlington.
Kennedy's death leaves Democrats without their best-known legislative leader, eight months into Obama's ambitious first term. The senator's memory was immediately invoked by some lawmakers eager to rescue Obama's embattled health-care legislation, passage of which was one of Kennedy's top priorities during the final months of his life.
"My heart and soul weeps at the loss of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend, Ted Kennedy," Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who is also in poor health, said in a statement. "In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health-care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American."
Other politicians, including Obama and Vice President Biden, steered clear of direct references to lawmaking. Biden jettisoned a planned speech on energy issues, instead using his appearance before an audience of federal employees to pay tearful tribute to his longtime colleague and friend.