Before the service began at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, for a congregation filled with President George H.W. Bush’s family and friends and VIP’s, Nancy Niedzielski stood outside the Bush Tanglewood home a few blocks away taking one more picture of the memorial of flowers, cards, and gifts placed at their neighborhood gate.
“He had a good run,” she said of the 94-year-old 41st President of the United States, “and he made a good mark on history.”
And a block away from the church, as close as she could get to a church cordoned off under heavy security, Colleen Fabacher stood waiting for her own glimpse of history too. She stood alone, in a red trench coat, wearing a red, white, and blue necklace, and waving an American flag while she made sure her brightly colored Christmas socks were visible too Because as the Bush family motorcade drove by in the hour before the service began, she wanted the Bush family to see her and the message she was trying to send.
“We’re here to support them. And we want them to know we’re supporting them,” Fabacher said.
If the Bush family had any doubts there were Texans to support them, those doubts would vanish by the time his casket was placed on a train to take him to College Station.
There were thousands trackside at the first major crossing in Old Town Spring. Thousands more at the next crossing, Northcrest and Root Road in front of Klein Oak High School, where Jackie Stevenson was handing out all of the small American flags he had stored in his Northampton neighborhood garage.
“I think this is going to be one emotionally charged intersection here in a couple hours and I’m looking forward to that,” he said.
“I just want to be a part of it,” said Marilyn Peterson huddled under an umbrella she shared with Spring neighbor Michelle Morgan as it began to rain.
“It makes me feel honored to live in this country that he was our leader,” Petersen said.
“We thought he was an honorable man. And we want to honor him and honor the Bush family for their contributions,” said Stephanie Nelson who brought her daughter Olivia to witness the presidential train pass by. “And this is an important time.”
And by the time the train did arrive, the crowd was several thousand strong. Local police blocked off the entire intersection to car traffic so that neighbors could stand as close as safely possible to the train.
The Klein Oak High School ROTC stood at attention and saluted as the train passed by. The Klein Oak High School band played Hail to the Chief. There were cheers from the crowd as they caught a brief glimpse of the casket through windows in the funeral car.
So we went looking for Marilyn Petersen again to find out if the two hours she waited for a 30-second glimpse of history were worth it. “I thought it was awesome. It was worth the wait,” she said. “I couldn’t wait for it to come and when it finally did, wow, my heart just skipped beats.”
“It was awesome. And I salute the family for subjecting themselves to all of this public display, and for sharing him with us.”
“But we all care. We love them. We feel like they belong to us.”
And now on the long journey home, President George H.W. Bush belongs to history too.