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Vicki Reggie Kennedy had emerged from the John F. Kennedy Library to show her appreciation to those waiting in line. "It's a tremendous solace for all of our family, and I just want to let them know how grateful we all are," Vicki said. "It's deeply, deeply moving for all of us. Thank you. Thank you."
"Thank you" was what many of the thousands of people who stood for hours said they had come to say to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
"He deserves the best, even in his death," said Margaret Kamau, of Metheun, who arrived at 10 a.m. "We really felt that we needed to be here just to thank him for all he has done."
Methuen was at the very front of the line with her young son, William, who suffers from a rare metabolic disorder that has confined him to a wheelchair. Getting care for him has been difficult, Kamau said. She reached out to the senator and his staff for help several times.
"They have never turned us down," Methuen said. "They even call, to see how things are going. I'm so thankful for all he has done. I just hope his good work will continue, even after his death."
Chris Mason, 27, was holding a sign saying "Thank you Teddy, for fighting for my civil rights." He came across the river from Cambridge to the library.
"I'm a gay man and Ted Kennedy was the greatest advocate for gay rights in the Senate," Mason said. "He's been my senator since the moment I came into this world, and he's been my hero for a long time."
When it became clear that people would be waiting in line well into the night, more members of the Kennedy family, including his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., came out from the library to greet people on the street.
"Teddy believed that our nation was a unique nation," Robert said. "His mission, I think, was to try to help America live up to its ideals, including avoiding the seduction of the notion that we could advance ourselves as a people by leaving our poor brothers and sisters behind."
April King, of Dorchester, said Kennedy had worked so hard and so long on issues such as gay rights and social justice that she had come to pay her respects to a man who felt like family.
"My grandmother, oh my God, you know how them old people are," King said. "There's Jesus. Martin Luther King. And the Kennedy brothers, hanging up on the wall. So that's what I grew up with. He's been on the family wall. He's a part of the family."
And as the sun set, and the line grew longer, April King admitted a new concern, maybe a secret one shared by the many thousands waiting behind her, that with Kennedy's death, it feels as if her state, her friends, her family have lost their protector.
"We now feel a fear," King said. "A buffer between us and them — whoever the them is — has been removed. It's amazing. It's amazing."
This program aired on August 28, 2009.
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