COLUMBUS (AP/WCMH) —A white-gloved Marine honor guard stands watch over John Glenn’s flag-draped, silver coffin inside the Ohio Statehouse rotunda. The usual holiday decorations have given way to black cloth hanging around the rotunda lights.
The public viewing started at noon Friday and hundreds have waited in line to sign a guest book and pay their respects to the fighter pilot, the test pilot, the U.S. Senator and the astronaut who made history as the first American to orbit the earth.
“I was a 13-year-old kid in California and I remember setting my alarm clock for 3 a.m. to get up and watch that,” said Linda Meier of Columbus. “To me he’s like Superman. Superman does not die and John Glenn will never die.”
Glenn died last week at 95. He grew up in eastern Ohio before becoming a national hero when he orbited the Earth in 1962.
PHOTOS: People pay respects to John Glenn at Ohio Statehouse
“When I was young I remember the space race and his role in it really inspired me,” said John Solonink of Columbus. “I wanted to be here to pay my respects.”
Like most in line, Ricky Holland says he never met John Glenn but feels a connection. “This is one of Ohio’s great treasures and so since I’m so close I thought I’d come out here and give my respects.”
92-year-old Leslie Edwards of Cincinnati, one of the few surviving Tuskegee Airmen, remembers John Glenn’s speech at the dedication of a Tuskegee Airman monument.
“The speech he gave made it clear it wasn’t about a person’s skin in aviation, it’s about your courage.”
Whether you call it courage or the “right stuff,” John Glenn had it.
And Edwards felt a duty to show his appreciation.
“I owe it to John Glenn to be here today and to salute him and show him my highest respect.”
PHOTOS: John Glenn
A Democrat, Glenn also served more than two decades representing Ohio in the U.S. Senate and became the oldest man in space, at age 77 in 1998.
President Abraham Lincoln and seven others before Glenn have lain in repose in Ohio since its capitol building opened in the 1850s, according to the Ohio History Connection, a statewide history organization.
“This guy was one of our great Ohioans. I wasn’t going to miss this event,” said Holly Rogers, 62, who works nearby. “I wasn’t here for Abraham Lincoln, so I can be here for John Glenn.”
A series of events celebrating Glenn’s life is planned, including a processional through the heart of downtown Columbus Saturday followed by a public memorial service at Ohio State University, where he helped found a public affairs college. Vice President Joe Biden, a former Senate colleague of Glenn’s, was among those expected to attend the service at Mershon Auditorium.
Glenn is survived by his wife, Annie. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., in a private ceremony in the spring.