Service for Sen. Kennedy Begins at Arlington National Cemetery

An array of living U.S. presidents gather in Boston for mass commemorating the life of Senator Edward Kennedy. Video by AP
By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 29, 2009; 8:03 PM

The burial ceremony for Edward M. Kennedy began shortly after sunset Saturday in Arlington National Cemetery, a private service that followed a eulogy by President Obama during a funeral in Boston and a cortege through downtown Washington that paused for prayers and song outside the U.S. Capitol.

An honor guard carried Kennedy's flag-draped casket to a spot between two maple trees, on a hill near the graves of his slain brothers, Robert and John. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a closefriend of the senator, presided over the brief ceremony, formally known as a Rite of Committal and Prayer of Commendation.

About fifteen members of the Kennedy family were joined at the cemetery by Vice President Joe Biden.

By Sunday, two new Kennedy markers will be in place in the historic cemetery: a glossy white oak cross at the head of Edward Kennedy's grave and a white marble foot marker, identical to those at Robert F. Kennedy's grave. The marble marker will read: "Edward Moore Kennedy 1932-2009."

Barely an hour earlier, the funeral motorcade had paused on the Senate side of the Capitol, Kennedy's political home for 46 years. On the Capitol steps stood about 1,000 past and present lawmakers and staffers, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), former senator Charles S. Robb and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).

They and thousands of other people gathered nearby burst into applause when the hearse arrived. Victoria Kennedy, the senator's widow, embraced many of those on the lower steps, and then the thousands bowed in prayer and lifted their voices to sing "America the Beautiful."

Before the motorcade left for Arlington, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), son of the senator, addressed in particular the many Kennedy staffers. His father, he said, "knew he was only great because he had great people supporting him."

The day was filled with many such moments.

In Boston, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, Kennedy was remembered as an iconic political figure, a man summoned by tragedy and history to extend his family's legacy and mentor succeeding Kennedy generations.

"Ted Kennedy was the baby of the family who became its patriarch," Obama said. "The restless dreamer who became its rock."

The day of farewell and celebration was carefully designed to provide space for grieving, opportunities to give thanks and moments of eloquence. It was a moving -- and movable -- tribute and leave-taking. The most important rituals took place hundreds of miles apart, in two states and the District of Columbia. Along the way, the body of the "tender hero," as Obama called him, was tenderly conveyed to some of most important sanctuaries of his life -- from the funeral in the church where he worshipped, to the Capitol where he served, to the cemetery where he regularly visited the graves of his brothers.

As in Boston, where throngs of Kennedy's admirers stood under umbrellas in a driving rain outside the basilica, people began gathering at the Capitol and along the motorcade route Saturday afternoon to secure a good place to pay their respects. From the Capitol, the hearse traveled slowly with a police escort along Constitution Avenue and crossed the Memorial Bridge to the cemetery.

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