COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — John Glenn’s home state and the nation began saying goodbye to the beloved astronaut Friday beginning with a public viewing of his flag-draped casket inside Ohio’s Statehouse rotunda.
Politicians and ordinary citizens paid their respects to the first American to orbit Earth as a somber Marine honor guard kept watch. The normally festive holiday decor was bedecked with black buntings and the windows were covered in black.
Ryan and Cristin Hanson, of Holland, Michigan, brought their 10-month-old baby, Hilary.
“He’s a hero who’s continued to be remembered,” said Ryan, who said he and his wife were awed by Glenn’s accomplishments.
PHOTOS: John Glenn, 1921 – 2016
Glenn died last week at 95. He grew up in eastern Ohio before becoming a national hero when he orbited Earth in 1962. Before that he was a fighter pilot in World War II and Korea.
A Democrat, Glenn also served more than two decades representing Ohio in the U.S. Senate and became the oldest man in space, at age 77 in 1998.
The public viewing Friday was scheduled to stretch at least eight hours. Most visitors paused for a moment in front of Glenn’s closed casket. A few snapped photos. One man, holding the hand of a small boy, turned and saluted before walking away.
President Abraham Lincoln and seven others have lain in repose in Ohio since its capitol building opened in the 1850s, according to the Ohio History Connection, a statewide history organization.
“This guy was one of our great Ohioans. I wasn’t going to miss this event,” said Holly Rogers, 62, who works nearby. “I wasn’t here for Abraham Lincoln, so I can be here for John Glenn.”
A series of events celebrating Glenn’s life is planned, including a processional and public memorial service Saturday at Ohio State University. Vice President Joe Biden was among those expected to attend the service.
Glenn is survived by his wife, Annie. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., in a private ceremony in the spring.