San Francisco says goodbye to the late Mayor Ed Lee

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A historical day for San Franciscans as thousands of people lined up to see the late Mayor Ed Lee lying in state at City Hall.

The line Friday night stretched down the block and around the corner. Many people brought flowers, photos, and messages to city hall to honor the man some people are calling "Everybody's Mayor." Some people were crying, others said they still can't believe the mayor, who passed away suddenly Tuesday morning, is gone. 

As night fell, the civic center was graced with blue lights from fire department ladder trucks, raising a giant American flag across the street from the building where Mayor Lee spent so much time since the day he was sworn in back in 2011.


"He was just a good man. You honor good and he was just a good man," said Annette Spears-Armstead, who said she works for the city and county of San Francisco.

Maria Nuguid, of San Pablo, was among the thousands who waited for more than a half hour to say goodbye to San Francisco's first Asian-American mayor, who died of an unconfirmed heart attack Tuesday morning.

"When I'm stressed, every time I see his face on TV with that smile, it calms me down. His smile is different, it's contagious!"said Nuguid, her face breaking out into a smile.

She and others silently bowed their heads, some said a prayer as they walked by the flag-adorned coffin that held the body of the late Mayor Ed Lee in the rotunda.

It's a spot in City Hall where Lee was sworn in seven years ago, a place where he at one time officiated gay marriages.

"He was a great person he did so much for the city and for everyone, not just a special group you know. Everybody and even in other parts of the world," said a teary eyed Lily Wu, Burlingame, as she clutched a tissue to dab her eyes.

Thousands of people left messages in a guestbook for Lee and his family. A slew of dignitaries and politicians attended to pay their respects. 

“It’s really heartbreaking,” Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi said. “It’s hard to even talk about his leaving us without thinking of his beautiful smile. She went on to say, “It’s important for us to remember what a blessing he was to our city, how grateful we are to mayor lee and his family for sharing him with us.”

“Mayor Lee was a good person to my family,” Police Chief William Scott said. “He welcomed us with open arms and made us feel comfortable with the sense of humor.”

“Every day it continues to sink in that he’s not with us, although I still feel his spirit here at City Hall,” Assembly member David Chiu said.

“He was a kind decent person and you really wanted to work for him and work hard for him,” Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of SF Rec and Park

Many San Franciscans say they will remember Mayor Lee, who grew up in public housing, as a tireless advocate for the homeless, immigrants and anyone in need. Although throughout much of his tenure as mayor, that image may have soured a bit with homeless advocates. 

"He loved Frisco like Frisco loved him! You know, he didn't come from the jets, he come from the bottom of the barrel and he loved his people: the have-nots, the thug life, he was lovin' the people and all the people! You look around me, you see every nationality and every color here," said Rudy Corpuz of the anti-violence advocacy group, United Playaz. Corpuz did a lot of community work with Lee during his tenure in office.

Ashley Summers, an aide to Supervisor Katy Tang, said Lee inspired her to do more public service and to do it with heart.

"Over and over this week, I've just heard people say what a good person he was and if you've left the earth and that's what everybody says that you're kind, that's something that I really want to emulate," said Summers.

The historical significance of today is not lost on San Franciscans. This is only the second time a San Francisco mayor has laid in state. The last time was Mayor George Moscone, after his assassination 39 years ago.

"I do remember it," said Cmdr Joe McFadden of SFPD, and former Captain of the Ingleside District, where Mayor Lee lived. 

"I was in high school and Mayor Moscone's son was actually in class with me at the time...[It was] a shock to the city [then] and I had that same type of feeling when Mayor Lee died. I used to see him around the district often just acting like a normal citizen... he was just that kind of guy. He was good at heart and he was always part of the community like no other mayor I've seen." 

"I just, you know, wish I could have my friend back. [He was] more than a boss. Just a true friend," said Derick Brown, the Mayor's Senior Adviser Neighborhood Services Director. "It's crazy cuz he'd always say, Derick, Derick, just call me Ed. But out of respect I would always call him Mr. Mayor."

Sunday there will be a public memorial service inside the rotunda at three o'clock in the afternoon.
Organizers advise the public to take mass transit in order to avoid traffic.

"We took our cues from him," Lee's chief of staff Jason Elliott said. "He always had a smile on his face." 

Lee became mayor in 2011 when former Mayor Gavin Newsom resigned to become lieutenant governor - a spot Lee won in an election that same year.