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Kennedy's Body Taken From Home

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

The senior senator from Massachusetts made his final journey to Boston today. After a private family Mass, Edward Kennedy's flag-draped casket was driven in a cortege from the family home on Cape Cod. On the outskirts of Hyannis Port, a crowd stood silently as the processional passed. Daniel Winterbottom(ph) of Seattle was visiting Cape Cod with his family.

Mr. DANIEL WINTERBOTTOM: In some sense, it's a passing of a generation of a legacy, I guess, and who will take his place, I don't know. I hope Obama, to be blunt with you. It's sad - sad, he meant a lot.

SIEGEL: From Hyannis Port, the Kennedy motorcade traveled 70 miles to Boston. On the way, it passed through the town of Hingham. Local Susan Haley (ph) was one of the people waiting to show her appreciation of the late senator.

Ms. SUSAN HALEY: He really was a senator for the ages. And I appreciate everything he's done. I think all his work has touched each American family in a positive fashion, whether they realize it or not.

BLOCK: Once the motorcade arrived in Boston, it took a slow, deliberately circuitous route through the city, passing the JFK Federal Building and historic Faneuil Hall. The procession ended at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in the Dorchester section of Boston, where the senator's body is now lying in repose.

Tovia Smith joins us from the library. And Tovia, tell us about the scene there now.

TOVIA SMITH: A very moving scene here, Melissa. All day long, the senator's hearse pulled in, followed by four limos and a bus filled with about 85 family members in total, including the now last surviving Kennedy sibling, Jean Kennedy Smith. They arrived to a kind of sober applause. Many of them waved. The senator's casket was then escorted into the building by a military honor guard. And they had about an hour private time.

And aides had told us that the family was supposed to leave before the public began streaming through. But the family stayed, and they formed a receiving line for the public, and many of them even came out on the street here and walked among the people. We just saw Bobby Kennedy go by, Ted Kennedy Jr.'s daughter - so, the senator's granddaughter. And I tell you, so many people here are just moved to tears.

What - one woman told me that she told the senator's widow inside, Vicki Reggie Kennedy, that the senator was her hero. She told me that the Kennedy family was visibly hurting but extremely gracious, thanking people for coming. But many here people - people here say that they're the ones who are grateful that the Kennedy family opened up to the public in their dark moment, as one woman put it.

BLOCK: And we've been hearing throughout this last day of mourning, so many people feel a direct connection with the senator, with the family, even if they never met them, had any dealings with them.

SMITH: Yeah, so, so many people have personal stories of 47 years of service. The senator helped a lot of people get visas or get information about a son killed in Iraq, or comfort someone. But many, many more say that their lives were touched by the senator just from afar.

One African-American woman I met said that her 3-year-old daughter will have a better life because of him. And that woman, Tomasina Minor(ph), was literally in tears today when she brought her daughter in to sign the condolence book.

Ms. TOMASINA MINOR: She said, Mommy, he died. I said, yeah. Who was that? I said, he was a great man. His fight for all people - not just black people, but just all people. I love the Kennedys.

(Soundbite of crying)

SMITH: So you see, Melissa, a lot of emotion here today - and more to come. The senator continues to lie in repose. Then a private memorial here tomorrow night, a funeral Mass on Saturday at an inner city church in Boston. And then, the senator's final journey to Washington, where he will be buried on Saturday evening at Arlington National Cemetery.

BLOCK: NPR's Tovia Smith at the JFK presidential library in Boston. Tovia, thank you very much.

SMITH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tovia Smith
Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.