PHOENIX — Cindy McCain pressed her face against the flag-draped casket of her husband, U.S. Sen. John McCain, on Wednesday and several of his children sobbed during the first of two services for the long-serving statesman and former prisoner of war before he is taken for the last time from the state he has represented since the 1980s.
The service at the Arizona Capitol marked the first appearance of McCain’s family members since the senator died Saturday of brain cancer.
During a brief private service inside the Capitol rotunda, Gov. Doug Ducey remembered McCain as a senator and internationally known figure as well as a key figure in the history of the Arizona.
While Barry Goldwater was an Arizona native, McCain was “Arizona’s favorite adopted son,” the governor said on would have been McCain’s 82nd birthday.
McCain 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.
Former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl said he has been with McCain all around the world and that he had better instincts on when to assert U.S. power than anyone else he knew.
Kyl said he would miss McCain and that his greatest contribution was national security.
Sen. Jeff Flake offered the benediction at the service.
Later in the afternoon, the Capitol will be open to members of the public who want to pay their respects.
Arizona National Guard members carried the casket into the Arizona State Capitol Museum rotunda, where McCain will lie in state.
Black curtains hung in the rotunda at the museum that hosts tourists and history buffs on a typical day as well state capitol workers bustling from one office to another. Arizona and U.S. flags encircled the room.
Before the ceremony started, veterans and active military members had staked out spots on the sidewalk to wait for the hearse that brought McCain’s body from a funeral home to the Capitol.
Other military members in uniform congregated on the Capitol plaza.
Veteran Judith Hatch handed out flags to those assembled, saying Arizona lost a champion for the military.
“We definitely have lost a strong advocate, so we’ll need someone who is going to step up to the plate,” Hatch said.
The viewing later in the day will go on as long as people are waiting in line, said Rick Davis, McCain’s former presidential campaign manager.
For some Arizona residents, McCain has been a political fixture in the state for their entire lives. He took office in the state in the early 1980s, first as a congressman and then as a senator in the seat once held by Sen. Barry Goldwater.
McCain is the third person to lie in state in the rotunda in the past 40 years; others were Arizona state Sen. Marilyn Jarrett in 2006 and Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, a Tucson resident, in 1980.
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.
The memorial service will include multiple tributes, readings and musical performances, including a tribute from former Vice President Joe Biden. Musical choices include a performance of “Amazing Grace” by the Brophy Student Ensemble and a recessional to “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.
From there, McCain will depart Arizona from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Another viewing will be at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, with a final memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral.
A website laying out details for the services says to send any flowers to a local Veterans Administration hospital.