As the world mourned the loss of the late Senator John McCain, a crowd of thousands came to the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday to honor the political icon and war hero.
A crowd estimated at between 7,500 and 15,000 people stood in line for the chance to pay their final respects to the U.S. Senator, whose body lay in state inside the Capitol building’s rotunda.
The crowd was as diverse as it was enormous, spanning a vast cross-section of political affiliations, economic backgrounds, and nationalities, which spoke to McCain’s wide-ranging appeal. There were old hippies and young Republicans, tattooed punks and middle-class housewives, war veterans and political activists. There was also a contingent of Vietnamese refugees from southern California who made the trip to Phoenix for the occasion.
They all braved triple-digit temperatures to wait for hours in a line that spanned several blocks for the opportunity to file past McCain’s casket and give a final tribute.
The one thing they all had in common was their fondness for McCain, who died on August 25.
Phoenix New Times spoke with some of those who came to the Capitol to pay their respect about what McCain meant to each of them.
"First of all, as a
“To me, John McCain was a real hero, a decorated war veteran and a dedicated American who served our country not only in a time of war but also served our country in times of peace for the betterment of our society. I have tremendous respect for him. He tirelessly worked as a conservative but also as someone who was willing to reach across both aisles to really join forces with the amazing potential that our Congress has to really create sustainable change. I felt that it's part of my civic duty to show my respect for a member of Congress and also a veteran of our armed forces. Just show my respect and thank him for his service."
“I lost my dad over a year ago and he was also military – retired army – so it seemed like the right thing to do to come down here to pay my respects to John McCain. He was a voice of reason, and me being a Democrat, I think that he was very important being that voice of reasoning, which let people know you can have a different view from others but still be ethical and a courteous good person.”
“I think John McCain was a great American patriot. He really exemplified what America is about in all phases of his life, and he seemed to be the guy that put country above self. So, to me, he was the epitome of what an American patriot, what an American really is. I came here today to memorialize a great man. I think it's important to remember and honor what he was, so I wanted to be here to do that.”
“I thought Senator McCain was an honorable and decent person with a lot of integrity who served our state and our country very well. He spoke a lot of truth about things that needed to happen in our country even though it was contrary to what was popular. I wanted to show my boys [Ewan Mitchell and Liam Mitchell] how to participate in a very special ceremony like this. It's probably something they won't ever get a chance to do again at this young age.”
“We are Vietnamese refugees and he is our hero. He was a great man. We live in California now, but before that, I lived in Phoenix and knew him. So I had to come to pay my respects. Many Vietnamese refugees live in Los Angeles and many of us [took a bus] this morning to come here today. We have the flag of [South Vietnam] with us and it means freedom. It was the flag used before the Vietnam War where many American people died. Over there, the flag means something else: the fight for freedom. To us, [John McCain] was a fighter. He took care of people, he loved people, and he loved this country. And we loved him very much.”
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"I came here to see the senator. He helped me a lot. Years ago, I wanted to return to my country. He helped convince me to stay in Arizona. I loved him. Today, I'm not happy, because he's absent. But wherever he went, he's in peace now. His intelligence and ideas, they helped the people to progress in Arizona. He made it good to be here."
"My mom, Lou Ann Preble, was in the [Arizona] House of Representatives, and John McCain has been an associate. They worked together a lot with the Republican Party; he’d come to my parents' house a few times. I came here today to represent our family, since our mom can't come up, and pay tribute to the man and talk to people. That's the reason, just to talk to people [and] hear their version of how John McCain was important to them. And to tell our version, too. I’m also retired military, so he means a lot in that direction. He has our back and we have his back. And that's the biggest thing you can get out of the military is having other persons' backs. And he did."