Senators, constituents remember Inouye at Capitol ceremony

Senators, constituents remember Inouye at Capitol ceremony
Published: Dec. 21, 2012 at 12:12 AM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

While many powerful politicians paid their respects to the late Sen. Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) at a rare ceremony in the U.S. Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C. Thursday, others who didn't know him well personally also showed up because they felt a connection to him and his legacy.

Some of the people in the rotunda were in tears as they saw the late senator's casket and gathered to remember the man described as an American patriot and hero.

Long after the senators, representatives, presidential cabinet members and other top political officials departed the rotunda after a morning ceremony, members of the public came to pay their respects for eight hours, from 12 to 8 p.m. EST.

"It feels like a member of our own family has died," said Kaneohe-born Castle High School grad Darren Shiroma, a United Airlines flight attendant who now works for a flight attendants' union in Washington, D.C.

"I like to think about the work that Senator Inouye has done and that his fingerprint, his Hawaii fingerprint was on all of the work that he did, so being born and raised in Hawaii, I was really proud of the work that he did and the recognition that he brought, the honor that he brought to the people of Hawaii," Shiroma said.

Shiroma has met Inouye several times over the years and said he knew he had to attend this rare tribute, as Inouye lay in state at the U.S. Capitol.

"For our homegrown Senator Inouye to be recognized in this way in our nation's capital is so meaningful and to be able to represent my friends, my family and the kamaaina that couldn't be here, that really is a high honor in and of itself," Shiroma said.

Daphne Domingo, who never met the senator, spent more than an hour in the rotunda.

"It was incredibly moving. It was hard to leave," Domingo said.

Domingo is a lifestyle coach, writer and photographer who lives in the nation's capital. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and said Inouye affected her from afar.

"He's been a tremendous influence in my life, growing up Asian American. We didn't have too many mentors and too many people to look up to, especially in politics. So, he was the person who said it was possible," Domingo said.

Inouye's Chief of Staff Jennifer Sabas said the ceremony came together quickly.

"It's a tribute to when you're a good person, and you're a nice person, working with everybody, from the top leadership to the cameraman to the carpenter, everybody stepped up and made this happen in the space of three days. It's an amazing tribute to him," Sabas said.

Sabas said Inouye was a good leader because very few things bothered him after he survived life-threatening injuries in World War II that left his right arm amputated.

Senators and representatives crowded around the rotunda Thursday morning before Inouye's casket arrived.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) sat right next to Inouye on the Senate floor.

"He always had a pearl of wisdom. He was such a steady, quiet kind of leader, just through his presence," Kerry told Hawaii News Now.

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) also remembered Inouye -- a lifelong Democrat -- for his willingness to work with Republicans.

"We mourn his passing not only for the man himself, but what he represented, including Japanese Americans, but also a brand of bi-partisanship that unfortunately is largely absent today," McCain said.

Senator-elect U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono told reporters, "And I know that the people of Hawaii are hurting and I just want to express my desire that we pull together now and remain strong, because that's what he was."

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.