- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thousands of mourners came to the Capitol yesterday to pay their respects to Rosa Parks, the seamstress credited with sparking the civil rights movement and the first woman among 30 Americans to lie in honor inside the Rotunda.

“This is history in the making,” said Gloria Cannon, 66, who took the train from Northern Virginia yesterday morning. “She was my inspiration.”

Mrs. Parks made history in 1955 in Montgomery, Ala., when she refused to surrender her bus seat to a white man. She died last Monday in her home in Detroit at 92.

Annie Smith, 55, arrived from Baltimore at about 10:15 a.m. and was among the first in the viewing line that formed west of the Capitol building.

“I’m here to honor Ms. Parks who worked and sacrificed so much for the changes we have today,” said Ms.Smith, who recalled being 5 and living in Mississippi when Mrs. Parks made history.

“I was [also] here on the day she got the Congressional Medal of Honor, but I couldn’t get into the Capitol,” she said.

Sandy Snow left Friday from her home in Ontario, Canada, and reached the line outside at about 11:15 a.m.

She carried a Canadian flag and several red roses that she planned to leave at the casket.

“She was an inspiration in every sense of the word,” said Mrs. Snow, 60. “It has been very much worth the wait today … and we haven’t even made it inside yet.”

Dignitaries and officials, including President Bush and first lady Laura Bush greeted the procession that started yesterday in Alabama and ended at the Capitol’s east steps at about 7:20 p.m.

Eight members of the D.C. National Guard carried the casket into the Rotunda where, after a brief, private ceremony attended by family members and officials, an estimated 6,000 mourners began quietly filing past Mrs. Parks.

Mrs. Parks’ body, accompanied by relatives and dignitaries, arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport at about 5:45 p.m. They were met by a group of officials including Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, both Republicans.

Mr. Steele, the first black elected to statewide office in Maryland, said the moment had special meaning for him as he tries to become the state’s first black U.S. senator.

“As I ponder and make moves to a different role and responsibility in public service, I recognize that Rosa Parks sat down so I could stand up,” he said.

The airport was a fitting location. Maryland recently changed the name of the airport to include the name of Justice Marshall, the first black on the Supreme Court.

Mr. Ehrlich said Mrs. Parks’ life is a reminder that one person can change the world.

“It just shows you that despite setbacks and despite obstacles, civil rights have come an awful long way in this country in a relatively short period of time,” he said.

The motorcade, which included a 1950s-era Metro bus, symbolic of the bus on which Mrs. Parks road, arrived at the Capitol via Highway 295 and several historic D.C. streets, including Constitution Avenue and South Capitol Street.

The weather could not have been more resplendent. The 65-degree temperature was ideal for those waiting outside and the Capitol dome glimmered in the setting sun.

The Red Cross has a team of 20 people passing out water, then hot drinks as the evening grew colder. There were no reports of injuries or other problems.

“I wanted to see her because this is history being made,” said Charlene Corruthers, 51, of Baltimore, who arrived yesterday morning. “She was just a person like you and me who took a stand. You should take a stand for what you believe.”

The viewing was supposed to begin at about 6:30 p.m., but delays kept those first in line outside until after 7:30 p.m. Still, officials promised that nobody would be turned away.

The viewing will resume today from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. Those planning to attend should line up at the west entrance of the Capitol. Visitors will again be required to pass through a metal detector and have bags checked.

After the viewing, Mrs. Parks will be moved to Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church where a service will be held at 1 p.m.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will serve as master of ceremonies.

“I’m going to say something about what she means and about why there is such an out pouring for her,” Mrs. Norton said yesterday. “We are going to keep remarks very brief.”

Dorothy I. Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women, TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey and several elected officials are also scheduled to give tributes.

Before Mrs. Parks’ body was flown yesterday afternoon from Montgomery, Ala., a service was held there at St. Paul AME Church, where she was once a member. Hundreds of mourners attended that funeral with hundreds more sitting in a separate wing of the chapel opened for the overflow crowd.

After today’s funeral, the casket will be flown back to Detroit. Mrs. Parks will then lie in repose at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit. Her funeral will be held Wednesday at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.



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