“I told the girls ‘Let’s sit on the floor and just look at what’s going on,’ ” Gallego said. “They went and they sat there, and we were just watching a little bit about his legacy.”
To Gallego, McCain represented the best of U.S. politics — a blend of kindness and gravity that had all but vanished in the last few years.
“There’s so much more he could have given,” she said. “Now we’re really going to be lost.”
All she could think to do at that moment was drive to Walmart, buy a bouquet and bring it to a sculpture park honoring fallen soldiers and other individuals and events important to Arizona.
“Where are we going to put them?” she asked as she walked back from the Vietnam War memorial, where she had found only one old, wilted rose laying at the statue’s feet. “I don’t want to look like the only dumb person with flowers.”
But as Gallego spoke, a crowd of TV crews had been gathering across the street, around some commotion outside the state capitol building. She walked over and saw a young girl in a gown, clutching a small U.S. flag. She saw David Carrasco, 78, standing at attention beside his Jeep in his honor guard uniform — for “as long I can,” he said, because he had served in Vietnam too. One by one, mourners drove up from across Phoenix to pay their own remembrances.
Feeling less awkward, Gallego found the tallest flag in view and put McCain’s roses down beside it.
Some time later and a few miles to the north, McCain’s hearse arrived at the A.L. Moore Grimshaw Mortuaries. Hundreds of people had lined overpasses and thronged to the mortuary to pay their respects.
“A lot of them were sobbing, sighing. They were also waving their hands in thanksgiving,” said Chuck Lehtinen, who had followed McCain’s political career since the 1970s and made it there in time to witness the senator’s last ride home.
“This was a tremendous loss,” he said. “A tremendous man who didn’t care about political parties, but cared about the people he served.”
Lehtinen and his wife stayed a while after the hearse had disappeared into the funeral home, and even after the police motorcycle escort roared out of the driveway and into the night.
They weren’t alone. Dozens lingered with them, many holding hands. Two people held a huge U.S. flag aloft in front of the mortuary’s front sign, which read in glowing letters: “Dignity.”