NY1's Dean Meminger is filing reports from South Africa as the country and the world mourns the death of Nelson Mandela. On Tuesday, South Africans marched around FNB Stadium to honor the former president and four U.S. presidents and members of Congress from New York attended a ceremony.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - South Africans sang songs of the struggle for equality in honor of Nelson Mandela while marching around the FNB Stadium at his state memorial on Tuesday.
"My parents always told me that it wasn't for Madiba we wouldn't be living the life that we are today,” said one attendee.
"It is a celebration for his life, really. He is the most important guy, I’m telling you,” said another attendee.
It was rainy and windy all day and that probably stopped some people from coming. Because so many world leaders were here, streets were closed and cars not allowed in the area. An obstacle for many trying to travel to the memorial.
But for those who did make it, it was special.
"It is like if I can just be there, even standing by the gate it will fulfill something inside of you,” said a third attendee. “We have to make sure that the old man is laid in rest in dignity."
"Everybody is here, even the little ones. The kids are here to honor him, pay their last respects,” said a fourth.
The United States paid its respects with visits from numerous dignitaries.
President Barack Obama was cheered, former President Bill Clinton received loud applause. Former President George W. Bush was cheered and booed by the crowd and former president Jimmy Carter was happy to be a part of Mandela's Memorial.
"It was a very wonderful service and I am very proud to be here,” Carter said after the service.
The congressional delegation in attendance had several members from New York.
"People from all of over the world are paying tribute to a great man. God spent a lot of time making Nelson Mandela and I am just so proud that I was on this planet in time to meet him,” Rep. Charles Rangel, who represents Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, said.
"We remember when Nelson Mandela was freed and he came to New York City. We knew he was going to be the father of the new South Africa and so we are here to pay our respects,” said Rep. Yvette Clarke.
“Being here makes your heart just pour open and also fills your eyes with tears,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks of Queens.
There will be more emotions displayed as Mandela's body will now lie in state for three days in Pretoria.
Finally on Sunday, Nelson Mandela will be buried in the town of Qunu, where he grew up.
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