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Mourners, Famous And Unknown, Converge To Pay Final Respects

This article is more than 11 years old.
An onlooker held a sign as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's funeral entourage proceeded through Mission Hill. (Korri Leigh Crowley for WBUR)
An onlooker held a sign as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's funeral entourage proceeded through Mission Hill. (Korri Leigh Crowley for WBUR)

Hundreds of mourners lined the sidewalks of Mission Hill on Saturday morning, watching and waiting for the motorcade that would deliver Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to his funeral.

American flags, old campaign signs and photographs of Kennedy dotted the street and storefronts leading up to Mission Church. Some people held signs urging lawmakers to approve health care legislation in his honor. Others said they just wanted to witness a moment in history.

Lillian Bennett, 59, of Dorchester, said she was a longtime Kennedy supporter and was determined to get as close as possible to the invitation-only funeral, despite the driving rain.

"I said to myself this morning, no matter what the weather, I'm going. I don't care if I have to swim," Bennett said. She called Kennedy "irreplaceable."

The owner of Mike's Donuts, across the street from the church, said it's a great honor for Kennedy to be memorialized here, where Sen. Kennedy once prayed mightily for his daughter, Kara, who was diagnosed with lung cancer. She survived.

Joe Bachynsky, 21, a Northeastern junior who lives in an apartment overlooking the church across the street, watched the procession from his roommate's bedroom. "I am a little bit taken aback to see this outside my window and then look at the TV and see it there," he said.

"I just kept, kind of, learning more and more people who were going to come, and then I just kept getting more excited."

Many notable people did come, including President Obama, who delivered the eulogy, three of the four living ex-presidents, foreign dignitaries, Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, singer Tony Bennett and actor Jack Nicholson — prompting what Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis described as the largest security event he'd ever seen in Boston.

The street fell silent upon arrival of the motorcade at the church, formally called the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, just after 10 a.m. Boston Police and the honor guard stood at attention, saluting Sen. Kennedy, who had served in the Army. The extended Kennedy family filed into the church, taking cover under black umbrellas and tight security.

After the Boston funeral, Kennedy's body was flown to Andrews Air Force Base, which also received JFK's body after his 1963 assassination. Kennedy was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on a hillside near his brothers.

WBUR's Lisa Tobin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This program aired on August 29, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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