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Mourners bear heat to pay respects to U.S. Rep. John Lewis in DC

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., right, views the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., as he lies in state on the East Front Steps of the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., right, views the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., as he lies in state on the East Front Steps of the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Credit: Jacquelyn Martin

Credit: Jacquelyn Martin

Stephen and Pat Dyer drove from Queens, New York, to attend the public viewing in Washington, D.C., of the body of Rep. John Lewis of Georgia
Stephen and Pat Dyer drove from Queens, New York, to attend the public viewing in Washington, D.C., of the body of Rep. John Lewis of Georgia

Credit: Tia Mitchell

Credit: Tia Mitchell

WASHINGTON—Pat Dyer and her husband Stephen stopped to enjoy the shade of a tree after making the long walk in the blazing sun to the U.S. Capitol to view the casket of U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

Stephen Dyer was moved by Monday’s TV images of Lewis’ casket being driven past Washington landmarks and carried up the stairs into the building for his lying in state. The Queens, New York, couple decided on a whim to drive down and be among the hundreds of people filing past Lewis’ casket during 12 hours of public viewing Tuesday.

Pat Dyer’s parents saw Lewis speak at the March on Washington in 1963. She considers Lewis’ final trip to Washington, which included stops by various landmarks, including the Lincoln Memorial where that historic civil rights speech was made, a full-circle moment.

“Now, he is coming back home to the place he made those speeches,” she said. “It’s like a seed was sown, and now a harvest has been reached.”

It was important for them to acknowledge the sacrifices that Lewis and other civil rights leaders made in the name of equal rights for all. Lewis’ lying in state at the Capitol Rotunda, the first Black man in history to do so, demonstrates that his hard work paid off.

“Back in the ’60s the torch wasn’t even lit,” Pat Dyer said. “So now, he became a light-bearer. And he led the way for the rest of us to follow.”

Local meteorologists said the temperature would reach 94 degrees but feel as hot as 102 because of the humidity. Washington is experiencing the second highest temperatures in July on record.

Still, the crowds were steady as masked onlookers in socially distanced spaces took turns taking photos of the flag-draped casket surrounded by white flowers.

Nadir Tekarli (left) and Dallin Johnson of Washington came by the U.S. Capitol Tues., July 28, 2020, to pay final respects to Rep. John Lewis.
Nadir Tekarli (left) and Dallin Johnson of Washington came by the U.S. Capitol Tues., July 28, 2020, to pay final respects to Rep. John Lewis.

Credit: Tia Mitchell

Credit: Tia Mitchell

Roommates Nadir Tekarli and Dallin Johnson live in D.C. and felt they were too close not to take advantage of the opportunity to say goodbye to the 33-year congressman from Atlanta. Tekarli remembers meeting Lewis when he worked as an intern at the Capitol, and said Lewis always shared words of encouragement.

“He was one of the people you could just walk up to in the hall, especially interns,” he said. “I think he sees the power in young people.”

Johnson said he also wanted to acknowledge Lewis’ sacrifice as an activist working to change institutions and systems that were resistant to the point of vitriol and violence.

“He didn’t care that most of America hated him, because most of America was wrong,” he said.

Rocky Twyman was publicizing his campaign for John Lewis to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. Tia MItchell
Rocky Twyman was publicizing his campaign for John Lewis to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. Tia MItchell

Credit: Tia Mitchell

Credit: Tia Mitchell

For a time, Rocky Twyman stood at the entrance point of the line and passed out information on his Change.org petition for Lewis to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021. Only a previous prize winner like President Barack Obama or President Jimmy Carter can nominate Lewis. But Twyman is hoping to amass 100,000 signatures and drum up public support.

“I just think that would be such a great thing for his legacy,” Twyman said, “to have him achieve this glorious honor, which he deserves.”