PHOENIX: Arizonans began lining the streets and mourners gathered at a Baptist church Thursday for a second day of memorial services for Sen. John McCain, the maverick politician and former prisoner of war who died at 81.
A motorcade was scheduled to take McCain’s body along an eight-mile route from the state Capitol to the North Phoenix Baptist church for a commemoration featuring former Vice President Joe Biden and other dignitaries.
Mourners in black went inside the church, while US flags and campaign-style placards that read simply “McCain” lined the motorcade route leading from the Capitol, where thousands of mourners filed past the senator’s flag-draped coffin on Wednesday.
During Wednesday’s private service at the Capitol for family and friends, Cindy McCain pressed her face against her husband’s coffin, and daughter Meghan McCain erupted in sobs.
McCain sons Doug, Jack and Jimmy, daughter Sidney and daughter-in-law Renee shook hands with some of those who paid their final respects.
McCain died last Saturday of brain cancer.
About 1,000 seats for the church service were made available to members of the public who signed up.
Outside the church, honour guard member Valentine Costalez praised McCain for championing the military during his Senate career.
“He’s done so much for us,” said Costalez, who stood watch earlier this week while McCain’s body was at a funeral home.
At the church, a choir from the Jesuit-run Brophy College Preparatory school that two of McCain’s sons attended was scheduled to sing “Amazing Grace” and “Arizona.”
The music chosen for the recession was Frank Sinatra’s signature song, “My Way,” paying tribute to a man who became known for following his own path based on his personal principles.
The much smaller service at the Capitol was filled with affecting moments and demonstrations of deep respect for the statesman and Navy pilot who was held prisoner by the North Vietnamese for 5½ years after being shot down over Hanoi.
Gov. Doug Ducey remembered McCain as “Arizona’s favourite adopted son” on what would have been his 82nd birthday.
The Capitol was then opened to the public in the afternoon, allowing visitors to walk past the closed casket after waiting in line outside in temperatures that reached 104 degrees (40 Celsius).
Inside, former military members in shorts and T-shirts saluted. Others placed their hand over their heart or bowed, including Vietnamese-born residents who travelled from Southern California.
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.”
The McCain family said about 15,000 people in all came to pay their respects at the Capitol.
After Thursday’s church service, a military aircraft was scheduled to take McCain’s body back east for a lying-in-state at the US Capitol on Friday, a service at the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday, and burial at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.