Steve Crump reflects on moments in the United States Capitol rotunda

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 9:40 PM EDT
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(WBTV) - I was six years old and in the first grade.

For three days during November of 1963, our family’s old black and white television with a fuzzy picture delivered a constant image of the capitol rotunda.

It was the death of President John F. Kennedy.

Fast forward 45 years later. I was standing in the same rotunda waiting for the arrival of Rosa Parks.

That moment in October of 2008 included President George Bush along with cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, along with House and Senate leaders.

It was a dark Sunday evening filled with ceremony and military precision.

As the commands of the honor guard boomed through the halls of the U.S. Capitol rang out, I stood near one of the rear entrances in awe.

The moment was somber, poignant and powerful. It was so powerful that I could feel every hair stand up on the back of my neck.

Understanding that I was witnessing history in the making was riveting.

That moment offered an assignment that will stick with me the rest of my life.

I’ll always remember the thousands of well wishers that lined the DC streets all night long near the capitol who waited for hours just to see Parks’ casket.

She was the first and only African American woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

Being an African American journalist, this was a story offering creative insight, moral fortitude and solid personal growth.

It was not the last time that I would be sent to the U.S. Capitol to cover a story.

When Reverend Billy Graham died back in 2018, I was assigned to handle the Washington part of his services.

Seeing flashing lights from the police motorcade and hearing the sirens was attention getting.

Once his casket was moved into the rotunda, the lines formed with those paying their final respects,

As Reverend Graham exited the U.S. Capitol days later, my photographer Kevin Marlow and I were perched on the back of a flatbed truck with other members of the media to record the final moments of his departure as he headed back to Charlotte.

The honor guard marched with reverence.

Respect on that morning was displayed through off and on drizzle and came from North Carolina’s senators and congressional representatives.

Feeling the gravity of that moment will also remain with me.

So will never forgetting the impact of the black and white image of a flag-draped coffin more than 55 years ago as a nation mourned the loss of JFK.

Being in that same rotunda and witnessing the moments of adoration offered to Rosa Parks, and watching the developments from Washington connected to the passing of John Lewis.

Having interviewed Congressman Lewis many times over the years on the road and at his Capitol Hill Office always led to humbling experiences.

Seeing the outpouring of love, affection, and respect for this great man during his final visit to Washington demonstrates his lasting presence and that his mantra of “good trouble” will live on.

From a 1960′s  view on a  television set to standing in the capitol rotunda decades later, and spending time with and studying the life of John Lewis has made me not just a better journalist, those experiences have also made me a better person.  

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