Not a Typical Day at Work: My Experience at the State House the Day Ted Kennedy Died

Filed in Headline, Local Events, Local News, Politics by on August 26, 2009 1 Comment

7:40AM – After waking up only a half hour earlier, I received a text message (in true contemporary fashion) reading, “Did you hear about Ted Kennedy?” I promptly turned on the computer and TV in order to find out what happened. Although I knew once I read the message that Ted Kennedy had died, these sources confirmed it. The Liberal Lion of the Senate had passed away in the night with his family by his side in Hyannis Port at the age of 77. These two details really struck a cord with me. Just two months ago, I lost my grandfather, age 77, sitting beside him, along with the rest of my family.

8:20AM – I decided it would be a good idea to pick up today’s newspaper from a nearby convenience store. I first picked up both the New York Times and the Boston Globe, but upon waiting to pay at the counter, it surprised me to notice that the Times did not have Kennedy on the cover. Leaving with the Globe in hand, I walked to the Green Line train to get to work.

8:30AM – It seemed much quieter than normal on the train. Or was I just picking up on a typical element of my morning commute because of what I knew had happened.

9:00AM – Walking up the hill at Park Street, I immediately noticed the United States and Massachusetts flags at half-staff. I had seen this just one-hour earlier on the national news.

10:00AM – Although we knew to expect questions about Ted Kennedy, my co-workers and I did not expect much else. My director asked us to go across the street to pick up a table skirt. Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin (also my top boss) wanted to create a display to honor Senator Kennedy.

10:30AM – My director charged me with the task of picking up flowers to place on a table alongside the condolence book my co-worker just ran out to buy. I went down to stand next to Old South Meeting House, selling fruit and flowers, where I bought out all of their white flowers.

11:00AM –By this time, a table was set in Memorial Hall with a photo of Senator Kennedy, a condolence book, and the flowers. I went back to adjust the flowers and noticed a girl around my age crying. She came in to Boston to see the Red Sox game last night with two other family members, only to learn that her godfather, Teddy, had passed.

All I could do was offer my sympathies and when asked where the bathroom was, take them there. A couple minutes after I returned to Doric Hall, where our Tours Desk is located, I noticed them inquire about how long a tour takes. I approached them to see if they would like a quick private tour of the building. For someone who normally could spend well over an hour sharing all my knowledge of the State House, I became nearly speechless. I know how insignificant everything else can seem when someone you love has just passed.

I took them down to the rostrum in the House Chamber so they could get a better look at the excerpt from John F. Kennedy’s “City on a Hill” speech he gave there before leaving for Washington a couple weeks later in January of 1961. We also went onto the balcony accessible from the Senate in order to get a better view of the Boston Common and part of the skyline. Since Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray happened to both be out of the building at the moment, we were very lucky to go inside their offices. Fittingly, the Governor has a copy of JFK’s inaugural address in his office. More so, Lt. Gov. Murray has a photo of himself with Senator Ted Kennedy in his office just above a photo of his father with President John Kennedy.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking them around the State House, despite the unfortunate circumstances. It touched me when they thanked me “from the bottom of their hearts” as they left.

2:00PM – Upon returning from lunch, I learned the details of the funeral arrangements. Ted Kennedy will be laid in state for two days at the Kennedy Library and a mass will take place on Saturday at The Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Tremont Street in Roxbury. President Obama will be delivering the eulogy. Senator Kennedy will take his final resting place later Saturday afternoon in Arlington National Cemetery, next to his brothers, John and Robert.

4:00PM – Briefly glancing out the front window, I could see Governor Patrick giving a short press conference at the front steps of the State House. Walking back inside, he went to Memorial Hall to sign the condolence book, cameras rolling. He wrote on behalf of his wife and he, “Diane and I thank God for the blessing Ted was to this country and to us.”

The State House has set out a memorial in honor of Senator Ted Kennedy in Memorial Hall located on the Second Floor. The condolence book is out for signing between 9:15AM and 5:00PM. Governor Patrick announced at his afternoon press conference that he will personally give this book to the Kennedy family at the church this Saturday.


Sara Todisco works as a Tour Guide at the Massachusetts State House and is a contributing writer for

Check out her blog at:

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  1. JIM ANDERSON says:

    Dear Mrs Kennedy and Family,

    I loved Senator Kennedy in life and will miss him terribly in death.
A kind and gentle light which burned so brightly has been deemed but will always shine in the eyes of those of compassion and good will.

    With Burning Sorrow,

    Jim Anderson, US Civil Servant and Democrat

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