Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Welcome home, Mr. President

Grand Rapids turns out to say goodbye. WOOD tells me the streets were lined practically the whole way from the airport to downtown. That is quite a distance.

At the corner of Michigan and Monroe, the crowd was four to five deep in places.

GRAND RAPIDS -- Gerald Ford arrived in his hometown for the final time a bit later than scheduled, but with all the ceremony necessary for a man who rose to become the 38th President of the United States.

The aircraft landed just before 3 p.m. in Grand Rapids. A short ceremony, including the University of Michigan marching band playing "Ruffles & Flourishes," took place before the motorcade began its route to the Ford Museum.

Thousands of mourners lined up along the motorcade route from the airport to the Ford Museum.

Mourners were also lined up along some of the I-96 overpasses and along the side on the berms on both sides of the road.

Veterans lined up along the Bridge Street bridge, often three-deep, to pay their respects to a fellow veteran. Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts are also in formation, and Eagle Scouts are set to honor the only Eagle Scout to become US President.

When the hearse passed in front of them, all stood silently at attention, honoring one of their own.

The motorcade reached the Ford Museum shortly after 4 p.m.

In the invocation delivered by Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, he said, "though we mourn...we do not grieve without a purpose." President Ford, he said, challenged this nation to adhere "to the highest standards of ethics and diplomacy, a guiding light to the world."

Long time friend and a member of the Ford Foundation Marty Allen spoke briefly and quoted author James Cannon. "Grand Rapids," he said, "a place from which a man can journey far and never leave." He said Ford learned three rules that he lived by: tell the truth, work hard, and be on time for dinner.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm spoke "on behalf of our 10 million citizens. We are proud and honored to have you here...to the city where you and Betty were married, Betty in a $50 dress and you in muddy shoes." She went on to say, "Sir, much has been said about your humility and simplicity, but we won't let that fool us...You were an incredible human being wrapped in a plain brown wrapper."

Heading towards the museum. As soon as it passed, the crowd broke in a flood to move toward the viewing line. It was an amazing sight.