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On a cold, gray autumn Monday afternoon 57 years ago today, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. It was his son John's third birthday.

The body of the slain 46-year-old president had lain in state the previous day in the Capitol Rotunda where some 250,000 stricken Americans had waited hours to file by the casket to pay their respects. The line was so long -- it stretched some 40 blocks -- that Capitol Police extended the viewing hours to all night. 

On Monday morning, the funeral procession made its way by the White House and then to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle -- along a route that Jacqueline and John Kennedy had taken foot when they went to Sunday Mass. It was outside that splendid church that UPI photographer Stan Stearns took the iconic photograph that ran in newspapers around the globe: of little "John John" Kennedy saluting his father one last time.

The two young Kennedy children then stayed behind as their mother and the extended Kennedy clan, joined by dignities from 90 countries and watched by a grieving crowd estimated at 1 million strong, made its way to Arlington cemetery.

President Kennedy had been at Arlington's famous cemetery earlier in November 1963 to commemorate the fallen for Veterans Day. JFK himself was a combat veteran, a decorated war hero, who on a whim had taken his son with him on that occasion. After the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier had ended, young John charmed those in attendance by marching up to his father and hugging his leg.

After taps was played, Kennedy surveyed the haunting scenery of that hallowed place, and told Rep. Hale Boggs, "This is one of the really beautiful places on earth. I could stay here forever." 

Two weeks later, the bugler sounded the same sad notes as America's 35th president was lowered into his eternal resting place. A fine book about JFK's funeral, written by four distinguished Associated Press writers, ends this way:

"Taps were sounded over the hill and the flag was raised taut and level over the coffin and folded with loving care and passed from hand to hand to the hand of the widow, and the eternal flame was lighted and the Lord's Prayer was intoned once more. And at 3:34 o'clock on the fourth day, John Fitzgerald Kennedy slipped out of mortal sight -- out of sight, but not out of heart and mind."

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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