Salvatore Isabella wasn’t even born when George H.W. Bush was elected to the presidency, but he jumped on a bus in New York early Tuesday to come to the Capitol and be one of the thousands who paid their respects.
He said his memories of Mr. Bush came from his grandfather, whose stories about the 41st president were a way of teaching about politics and patriotism.
“My grandfather just died back in March. He was 94,” Mr. Isabella said. “So he was my inspiration for me to get on the bus and come here.”
Mr. Bush was also 94 when he died Friday night, sending the nation into mourning for a man those on all sides of the political spectrum described as a decent and honorable public servant.
The late president has been lying in state in the Capitol’s Rotunda since Monday evening, and thousands of people have streamed by his casket to salute him.
Mr. Bush’s children, including former President George W. Bush, returned to the Capitol on Tuesday — a day after leading the welcome of their father’s casket — to pay their respects again.
Among those who came Tuesday were the late president’s former military commanders, including former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell, and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, 95, who stood from his wheelchair and saluted Mr. Bush, a fellow World War II hero.
“I guess it hit me harder than I thought,” Jamie Werner, 36, told The Washington Times. “But I have a lot of respect for the former president.”
Ms. Werner said she isn’t a Republican, which is why she was surprised at the emotional impact of the day, but she praised Mr. Bush for his approach to public service and putting the country before himself.
Democrats waiting in line to see the former president recalled some of his domestic achievements, such as signing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Other visitors recalled his commitment to bipartisanship and respectful politics.
Charles Wingold, 13, who was at the Capitol on a school field trip from Florida, said the president “seemed like a nice guy,” from the stories his family told him, even if they weren’t fans of the Republican Party.
Several law school students at the University of Richmond said Mr. Bush exemplified bipartisanship in the courtesy he showed to President Bill Clinton, the man who ousted him from the White House in 1992.
“It’s sort of bittersweet,” Manuel Garcia, 53, said about viewing the presidential casket during his vacation from Miami. “We’re here to honor a great president, and I think, a great individual.”
Jennifer Schwartz, a 35-year-old mother from D.C. who attended the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M, said she met Mr. Bush several times as a graduate student.
She said she was most inspired by his idea that public service is a noble profession.
“It was important to come regardless of who the president was, but especially because it was President Bush,” she said. “His example has completely guided my life.”