Friday, December 7, 2018

Honoring President George Herbert Walker Bush

Yesterday I experienced a moment in history.  I got to watch the train carrying the late President George Herbert Walker Bush, our 41st President, to his final resting place at the grave site on the grounds of his presidential library here in College Station, Texas.  He served his country well, with strength and dignity, and was well-respected - it feels like an era has ended with his passing.  I'm sad that I won't be seeing him wandering around his library grounds anymore - just about every time I went there, I saw him and Barbara, and they always waved to me.  For a former president, he felt very approachable - he came to town often and it felt quite normal to have a former president attending a Texas A&M football game.

This entire week has been pretty crazy; once the funeral plans were announced, schools, businesses, and government offices announced early closings for yesterday, and it seemed like just about everybody was making plans to be there as the train came through town.  Unfortunately Jeff's work didn't close early, so he wasn't able to view the train, but Diane and I made plans to see it in the south part of town.  Once she was free from her job, I picked her up and we drove to the parking lot where the company who did our house renovation was located - I'd remembered getting stuck there a couple of times as we waited for a train to cross by, so that seemed like a good viewing area.  A lot of other people had a similar idea, but I found a parking spot so we were set.  It was raining and we stayed in the car until 3:00 pm before venturing out - the train was supposed to come through around 3:25 and we wanted to get as close to the tracks as we could.

(Click on these pictures to see them better)
Yep, pretty close!  By the way, the rocky part leading to the tracks is much steeper than it looks here.  It's almost like the railroad doesn't want you to walk on the tracks.

We ended up walking over the tracks to the other side, which turned out to be a very good decision as you'll see later:
People and vehicles everywhere.  If you play I Spy you might find my Mini.

Karen and Jimmymeow had watched the train go by in Navasota, which is about 30 minutes south of College Station.  She texted me that once we see a helicopter, the train was not far behind.  Sure enough, a helicopter flew overhead and circled around us several times.
We waved to the Secret Service.

A policeman drove by, telling us via his loudspeaker that the train was about to arrive and that we had to stay off of the rocky area.  So now I'm two for two in having a police officer tell me to move for Bush funeral processions.  We moved down to the slope and I stood on a railroad tie for a better view:
Diane's shoes are on the ground - she was weirded out by having me at her eye level for a change!

Then we heard the train's horn, and it slowly came into view.  I held my camera so I could just push the button repeatedly and hopefully capture some pictures, but I wanted to see the train with my own eyes, not through the screen.  I ended up with some decent shots, all things considered.
President Bush was a huge train enthusiast, and in 2005 Union Pacific painted an engine in the Air Force One colors from his era, and gave it the number 4141.
I had to include this picture because the angle that I shot it makes it look incredibly long.
This is the car carrying his casket.
Seeing the flag-draped casket with a Navy serviceman standing guard - I couldn't breathe for a moment.  I still can't put into words what it was like to watch this car go by.
 
The very next car had people waving, but it was hard to identify anyone as the train was moving just fast enough to make it difficult.  It wasn't until I got home and looked at the pictures on my desktop that I realized I'd gotten a shot of former president George W. Bush, his wife Laura, and daughter Jenna.  We wouldn't have seen them if we hadn't crossed the track to the other side - it was a very fortuitous decision, indeed.  In the funeral motorcade earlier this year for his mother, Barbara Bush, I saw him waving at us as they drove by so it felt only right to see his face in this picture, in this funeral procession.
 
Another thing I noticed afterward - they were on the Lone Star car.
 
More people waving - I love that they made a sign saying THANK YOU to everyone lining the tracks.  My hand accidentally got in this picture - I was holding some small American flags and waving them back at the passengers in the train.
 
The caboose.
 
There it goes, continuing the journey into College Station.

We knew that there would be a 21-plane flyover of Navy fighter jets coming around 4:15, so we waited for that.  President Bush was a navy aviator in WWII and this would be the largest flyover ever.  It wasn't long before the first jet - an F/A 18 Hornet - came screaming over us.  Then, in formations of four, twenty more flew by.  We turned and watched the last group and saw one plane veer off, going almost straight upward, toward the heavens, by itself.  This was the missing man formation and it was a powerfully emotional thing to witness.  And because we'd had rain earlier and the skies were still cloudy, seeing it disappear into the clouds made it even more touching.
Diane got this shot - it's hard to get a clear picture of fighter jets with an iPhone, but it's nice to have as a remembrance of what we witnessed on that day. 

30 comments:

  1. What a wonderful experience for you! I watched most of it on TV. While I didn't always agree with George HW's policies, he was a gentleman and all the flashbacks this week reminded me of what it was like to have a president who actually served the country instead of himself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree - this was such a good reminder of what it should be like. The civility and respect toward both parties in his era needs to be brought back.

      Delete
  2. I can imagine this must have been a very emotional afternoon for you. Thank you for sharing the great pictures with us.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow! What a wonderful experience and tribute to a great man.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The planning that went into this was awesome - love how they included everyone who wanted to have a part in it.

      Delete
  4. Wow, what a neat experience. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was thinking about you all day yesterday wondering if you were getting to be a part of history. What a great thing to be able to experience.

    Even though you won't see the senior Bushes any more, I wonder if you'll ever see any of the family as they visit their loved ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting point - I suspect family members will visit from time to time. I wouldn't have missed this for the world...once in a lifetime, right in my town? Yep, I'll be there. :)

      Delete
  6. Oh I was waiting for your post. Thank you for sharing your pics. What an awesome experience to have seen them on your visits to the library and for them to wave back. Class all around.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for sharing your pictures. It was a very unique feeling day her in BCS

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks so much for sharing with us- excellent post and pictures

    ReplyDelete
  9. That's so cool Shelley. Your explanation of the missing man formation made me teary - my good friend just lost her husband to cancer last night, he was a Navy man, but still this made me think of him. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Random reader here, who has never commented before - I really enjoyed this post - thank you for sharing it! Your photos are terrific and made me feel like I was there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting Annie - I appreciate it. :)

      Delete
  11. Shelley! I am such a goon. This morning I thought it was Thursday so I didn't check your blog. I just now read it, and I am still crying. When you showed the picture with President Bush's casket and the guard, it really made me cry. I'm so glad you got to experience this and that you shared it with us in such a beautiful way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not a goon! But thank you for the emotional comment, I'm glad that this post was meaningful to you.

      Delete
  12. Shelley,
    What a great post. I felt like I was there. Thank you!
    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you so much for sharing this!!! I am touched just from reading your description of the events and the accompanying pictures. I can’t imagine how it was in person!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was pretty incredible in person - I still can't believe I got to witness that.

      Delete
  14. Thank you for the excellent post Shelley. I thought about you when I saw coverage of the train going to A & M.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh my gosh, just reading this made me tear up - about seeing his casket and the plane going up and off away from the others. Thank you so much for sharing this! It's so great you could go, and that you used to see them around the library.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was an incredible experience and I'm glad I was somewhat able to convey it through this post.

      Delete

I love hearing from you and read each and every comment! Comments on older posts are moderated, so they won't show up right away - sorry to my real readers, but spammers love to hit old posts, so this is necessary.