On a gray and rainy Thursday, the faint echo of a train whistle was heard as silence engulfed the Texas A&M campus. Minutes later, the casket of the late George H.W. Bush was escorted from a train car to a hearse.
College Station saw a historic moment Thursday as the 41st president was laid to rest alongside his wife, Barbara and daughter Robin. Before reaching the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Bush’s body was escorted by family members and close friends via Locomotive 4141 until reaching Texas A&M, where the family was met with a song by the Singing Cadets and a salute from Ross Volunteers. As the former president’s casket was escorted to a waiting hearse, the Aggie War Hymn echoed through the air, performed by members of the Aggie Band.
Colonel Michael Fossum, NASA astronaut and Class of 1980, was among the special guests in attendance of the train crossing ceremony and said one thing was never in question with Bush: his integrity and his honor.
“That life of honor is one that we need to recognize, remember and for goodness sakes, let’s all of us in our own way try to emulate,” Fossum said.
Chemical engineering senior and vice president of the Singing Cadets Abu Akki said he was humbled by the opportunity to honor the late president by performing for the Bush family and friends. Frigid weather and rain were virtually unnoticeable as the singing cadets were focused on ensuring the president’s remembrance, Akki said.
“I also had a chance to sing for Barbara Bush’s funeral in April, and it actually rained then as well,” Akii said. “It felt fitting because I think those two in particular have a certain love for A&M and a certain love for our nation that is very honorable and really something that I admire.”
A&M Regent Phil Adams wore a pair of cufflinks he received from the late president and said that Bush saw a community of like-minded, service-minded individuals at A&M.
“In us, he saw values — core values that he shared,” Adams said. “He saw a passion for freedom and opportunity and all things good about America. He saw shared values and he saw a passion for America.”
Aggie band commander and honors history senior Caleb Brown said that Bush requested the Aggie War Hymn be played at the ceremony, showing his love for A&M’s traditions.
“We’re a long-standing institution, and we just happened to be the ones that were given the honor,” Brown said. “It just really reminded me what it is we stand for, which is ultimately respect and loyalty to our country.”
Industrial distribution sophomore Anydo Romera was among the crowd of community members who gathered around College Station to watch the presidential train arrive.
“Primarily, I live my life on the ideology of ‘surround yourself with people better than you’ — and to exemplify an astounding person, a phenomenal person and a model citizen for everyone to look up to,” Romera said. “I would like to pay my respects for a great man.”
President of the Singing Cadets and industrial engineering senior Corey Bowers said he immediately noticed the large crowd of people gathered across Wellborn Road as he walked onto the stage where he sang during the ceremony.
“To be there at the final stopping point of the train and then sing in President Bush’s honor as they got off the train — that was something that you can’t really put into words,” Bowers said.
As the motorcade pulled away from the ceremony, former president George W. Bush could be seen waving to the crowd through his window.
After leaving the railroad crossing, the motorcade made its way to the Presidential Library, where over a thousand members of the Corps lined the road to pay their respects.
Corps commander Adam Buckley was able to salute the motorcade as it approached the library. He held a salute again as an unprecedented 21-jet flyover passed over the burial site in Missing Man formation.
“The whole reason we were there was to try to show support and appreciation for everything [the Bush family has] done,” Buckley said. “He put Texas A&M on the national forefront. He brought to the nation what the people in Texas — and especially the local area — have known for so long, which is the Aggie Spirit.”
Savannah Mehrtens contributed to this report.