When real estate broker Steve Irvin arrived in Washington on Sunday to start his vacation,he was unaware that his plans would include paying his respects to Byrd,who died Monday at age 92.
“It's a historical event,” Irvin said. “It was an opportunity for us,just by happenstance,to be able to see that and be a little small part of it.”
Irvin,62,came to Washington from Wilson,N.C.,with his wife,daughter and daughter's friend. He said they had passes to visit the Senate and House of Representatives galleries for Thursday,the same day services were held for Byrd.
Irvin and his family sat among other visitors and tourists for a few minutes in the Senate chamber's public galleries,while Byrd's relatives received condolences from government employees and family friends on the chamber floor.
Deb Seaquist,42,a high school math teacher from Highlands Ranch,Colo.,said she was glad the public could participate in the ceremony.
“We got to witness history. We got to witness something that not may people get to witness,” she said.
Seaquist visited the Capitol with her husband and their four children,ages 9 to 14 years old. She said it was her children's first visit to Washington.
“We also got to see the changing of the guards,so that was kind of a thrill,” Seaquist said of the special ceremony inside the chamber. “It was pretty dignified and peaceful.”
Byrd was the longest serving senator in U.S. history. He served for 51 years under 12 presidents. Byrd was the first senator to lie in repose in the Senate chamber since the 1950s.
Engineer Jon Gribble,39,from Shawnee,Kan.,said he benefited from the service,which was an unexpected addition to his vacation plans with his wife and 9-year-old daughter.
“His passing has also allowed us to sort of share his engagement in the Senate,” Gribble said. “I don't think we would have probably discussed the senator or been a part of that. So,that was an opportunity to share his power and leadership.”
Gribble and his family toured the Capitol with Sen. Sam Brownback,R-Kan.,an event they had planned a year ago. Gribble said the service added value to his Washington experience.
“It was very solemn,you know,not an experience we expected to have when we came to vacation,and to be a part of history,” he said.