By Dagny Salas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 31, 2009
Joan Waxman happened to be in the nation's capital on an elementary school trip the week that John F. Kennedy was buried. She was in town for a wedding when former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died.
This weekend, as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's body was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Waxman, 53, and her husband, Howard, were moving their son in for his junior year at George Washington University. Before heading back to New Jersey, they decided to pay their respects to the last of the fabled Kennedy brothers after watching his funeral cortege go by on Constitution Avenue on Saturday afternoon.
"It was pretty emotional," Joan Waxman said. "It's the end of a dynasty. They really are, in some sense, American royalty."
The Waxmans were among several hundred people who stood in line in Sunday's hot sun to visit the grave of Edward Kennedy, who died last week after a 15-month battle with brain cancer. The longtime senator was buried Saturday just after sunset near his two slain brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. The line snaked down a path as people fanned themselves, shaded their eyes and stood on their toes to snap photos of the site.
Arlington had been closed to the public for Kennedy's burial, which was attended only by family members and a few close friends. When the cemetery opened at 8 a.m. Sunday, a small group of people was already waiting. By 11 a.m., the line had swelled to more than 100 people.
Jason and Tina Middaugh of Syracuse, N.Y., were in the District vacationing with family as ceremonies for Kennedy were taking place. Self-proclaimed history nerds, the couple have traveled all over the country visiting presidential grave sites. Even though Edward Kennedy did not become president, the couple still wanted to see his grave.
"My mom told stories of John F. Kennedy and where she was when that happened, so we actively made it a point to visit [Edward Kennedy's] grave," Jason Middaugh said. "It is right to pay tribute."
Others visited Arlington on Sunday for more personal reasons. David McGill and his wife, Sally, of Ellicott City, stood at David's father's gravestone, far from the crowds. Buried last October, Allan C. McGill served with the Army in World War II in the Pacific, then in Korea and Vietnam. Sunday would have been his father's 92nd birthday, David McGill said.
"It's very moving to see all the people buried here, and you take a step back and you're in awe of the people who gave for their country," he said.