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Last week, like most Americans, Rose and Joe Kennedy were asleep when the bullets struck. Ann Gargan, the niece who lives with them in Hyannisport, Mass., did not awaken them. But Rose got up around 6, as usual, to prepare for 7 a.m. Mass. She heard the news then. Joe heard it later when Ted telephoned him. Rose went to St. Francis Xavier Church, where a wing had been built in Joe Jr.'s memory, where a bronze plaque marks the pew that Jack used to occupy, where Bobby once served as an altar boy. Later that day, Cardinal Cushing came to offer what comfort he could. "She has more confidence in Almighty God," he said, "than any priest I have ever met."
Three Widows. Next morning came the news that the family had feared. At 1:44 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time, Bobby Kennedy had died under the eyes of his wife, his brother, his sisters Pat and Jean and his sister-in-law Jackie.
The Los Angeles medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, presided over a six-hour autopsy attended not only by members of his own staff but also by three Government doctors summoned from Washington—again a lesson from Dallas. Sirhan was indicted for murder by a grand jury. Meanwhile, once again, the nation watched the grim logistics of carrying the coffin of a Kennedy home in a presidential Boeing 707. This time the craft carried three widows: Ethel, Jackie and Coretta King.
Everywhere, hundreds and thousands watched the cortege firsthand. Millions bore witness by television. The party arrived in New York City at 9 p.m. Thursday, and already the crowd was beginning to form outside St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. The church was not to be open to the public until 5:30 the next morning, but some waited on the sidewalks through the warm night. Then, thousands upon thousands, in line for as long as seven hours, they marched past the great bronze doors for a glimpse of the closed mahogany casket. The black, the young and the poor were heavily represented: Bobby Kennedy's special constituents.
Things That Never Were. There remained the final searing day, the day of formal farewell amid all the ancient panoply of Roman Catholic ceremony and all the contemporary irony of American politics. There was Cardinal Cushing in his purple, his rumbly intonation evoking yet another memory of that earlier funeral. There was the President, who started his oresidency by giving condolences to the Kennedys and now, near the end of his power, came to mourn the man who had helped shorten the Johnsonian reign. There were the men pausing in their pursuit of succession: Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy. And there was Ralph Abernathy in his denims, William Fulbright, Averell Harriman, Barry Goldwater and so many others of the powerful and the prominent.
But in all the vastness of St. Patrick's Cathedral, it was from first to last a peculiarly personal Kennedy occasion. The women wore black, their daughters white; the Mass, even for the dead, carries the promise of life. Ethel and Rose displayed yet again the steely grace that seems to sustain all women born to or married to Kennedys. Children were a big part of Bobby's life, and played a part in the service. Four sons served as acolytes. Eight of their brothers, sisters and cousins bore the bread, the wine and the sacred vessels to the high altar.