Monday 16 September 2019

Bushes make surprise appearance among mourners paying respects to late president

George HW Bush is lying is state in Washington DC.

The former president put his hand on his father’s flag-draped casket (AP/Patrick Semansky)
The former president put his hand on his father’s flag-draped casket (AP/Patrick Semansky)

By Associated Press Reporters

The family of George HW Bush made a surprise visit to Washington DC’s Capitol Rotunda where mourners have been paying their respects to the late president.

The Bushes – including his son, the former president George W Bush – shook hands with visitors and tourists who had lined up to honour the family patriarch, who died aged 94 on Friday.

George W and Laura Bush entered first and the former president put his hand on the flag-draped casket holding the remains of his father.

Their twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, followed, while Jeb Bush and his wife joined along with about a dozen other members of the Bush family.

They mingled for about 10 minutes and at one point George W Bush held up a baby.

Soldiers, citizens in wheelchairs and long lines of others on foot wound through the hushed Rotunda on Tuesday to view the casket and remember a president whose legacy included World War military service and a landmark law affirming the rights of the disabled.

Mr Bush held a baby after viewing the casket (AP/Patrick Semansky)

Mr Bush’s service dog Sully was brought to the rotunda too — his main service these last months since Barbara Bush’s death in April being to rest his head on her husband’s lap – something US service dogs are trained to do.

The CIA also honoured Mr Bush, the only spy chief to become president, as three agency directors past and present joined the public in the viewing.

Former first lady Laura Bush greeted visitors (AP/Patrick Semansky)

In the midst of the period of mourning, first lady Melania Trump gave Laura Bush, one of her predecessors, a tour of holiday decorations at the White House.

Mrs Bush’s Instagram account described it as a “sweet visit during this sombre week”.

The Trumps also visited members of the Bush family at the Blair House presidential guesthouse, where they are staying.

Sully, Mr Bush’s service dog, visited the Rotunda (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The former president and former first lady greeted the current officeholders outside before everyone went in for the private, 20-minute visit.

Although Mr Trump will attend Mr Bush’s national funeral service on Wednesday, he is not among the eulogists announced by the Mr Bush family, which includes George W Bush.

Mr Bush died aged 94 on Friday (PA file)

After services in Washington, Mr Bush’s remains will be returned to Houston to lie in repose at St Martin’s Episcopal Church before burial on Thursday at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station.

His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953 aged three.

Mr Trump has ordered the federal government to be closed on Wednesday for a national day of mourning, while flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.

Mr Bush’s death reduces membership in the ex-presidents’ club to four: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama.

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