Kitty Felde

Senator Byrd's last day in the Senate

When notable Washington politicos die, one of the highest honors is to allow them to lie in state under the Capitol rotunda. Robert Byrd's colleagues thought he'd rather spend his last hours in the Capitol in the chamber where he spent so many years. Today I paid a visit to the old gentleman.

By the time I arrived in Washington, Byrd's segregationist past was ancient history. Instead he was seen as one of the respected elders, showing up in the middle of the night, in the middle of Snowpocalypse, in his wheelchair, to cast his votes on health care.

Inside the chamber, it was a bit surreal. So very quiet in the Senate chamber. So unlike the usual day to day debates and speeches that buzz around the chamber.

On his desk - covered by a black cloth - sits a clear vase of white roses. His flag-draped coffin in the center of the chamber is watched by a pair of Capitol Policemen who serve as honor guards. Behind the casket are two floral wreaths - one white, one red, white and blue.

Visitors file into the visitor's gallery, quiet and solemn. Staffers and members drop by the Senate floor to pay their last respects.

In a few hours, the Senator's body will be taken down the Capitol steps, on his way to his home state of West Virginia for the memorial service.

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