At least 1,500 people paid respects to Sen. John McCain, who succumbed to an aggressive form of brain cancer on Saturday, as they streamed past his closed, flag-draped casket at the Arizona Capitol.
Well-wishers had been waiting in line in the withering summer heat — the high in Phoenix was 104 degrees — some for hours, to take part in the public viewing on Wednesday.
Families with children paid respects. Men paused beside the casket to salute or bow.
People came from out of state. They also crossed political lines and the full spectrum of ages.
Barry and Linda Vittori separately made the roughly five-hour drive from San Diego on Tuesday night. Linda Vittori said McCain “epitomizes what I think our forefathers were hoping our country would be.”
Vietnamese veterans in their uniforms saluted McCain’s casket, and a mariachi singer strummed his guitar and sang outside as a tribute.
Ray Riordan, an 87-year-old Navy veteran who fought in the Korean War, came from Payson, Arizona.
“I grew up where a handshake was a contract and your word was your bond,” Riordan said. “He represented the last of that, as far as I’m concerned.”
Kassandra Morales, 44, stood in line with her sons, ages 8 and 2. The single mother and Democrat, who came with a bouquet, said she had long looked up to McCain.
“Yesterday I asked my son who his hero was. He gave me a rapper’s name,” Morales said. “I brought my children here to show them what a real hero was.”
The viewing came on what would have been the Republican senator’s 82nd birthday, and followed an emotional private ceremony attended by McCain’s family and colleagues.
During the private service, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey remembered McCain not just as a senator and internationally known figure, but a major figure in the history of their state.
While Barry Goldwater was an Arizona native, McCain was “Arizona’s favorite adopted son,” the governor said of McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone while his father served in the military.
“Imagining an Arizona without John McCain is like picturing Arizona without the Grand Canyon,” Ducey said.
Cindy McCain, the late senator’s wife, pressed her face against the flag-draped casket, and several of his children sobbed during services for the statesman, presidential contender and former prisoner of war.
The private service at the Arizona Capitol marked the first appearance of McCain’s family members since the senator died.
Former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl said he had been with McCain all around the world. McCain, he said, had better instincts on when to assert U.S. power than anyone else he knew.
Kyl said he would miss McCain, whose greatest contribution was in the realm of national security.
“I will miss him as a friend, and a strong force for America, and the world,” Kyle said.
Sen. Jeff Flake offered the benediction at the service.
His words included the following: “Now as we go forward, let us remember thy humble servant with gladness and cheerfulness to answer his call to summon the better angels of our nature, to see and appreciate the humanity in our opponents, to more freely forgive so that we might be forgiven.”
Thursday morning will feature a procession through Phoenix on the way to a memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church, with the public invited to line the route along Interstate 17, according to officials.
The memorial service is set to include a tribute from former Vice President Joe Biden. Musical choices include a recessional accompanied by Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
From there, McCain will depart Arizona from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, officials say.
Another viewing is scheduled for the U.S. Capitol on Friday, with a final memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral.
For some Arizona residents, McCain has been a political fixture for their entire lives. He took office in the state in the early 1980s, first as a congressman and then as a senator occupying the seat once held by Goldwater.
The public viewing would go on as long as people are waiting in line, said Rick Davis, McCain’s former presidential campaign manager.
Phil Hubbard, a health care recruiter from Scottsdale, held a cold water bottle in each hand as he waited for a chance to pay his respects.
“He believed in something,” said Hubbard, who had voted for McCain. “That’s what he did, and that’s what a lot of people need to do in this country. If you believe in something, stand up for it, whether it’s popular or not.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.