The drone of television helicopters overhead signaled that the motorcade from Cape Cod was not far away. A crowd had assembled along the narrow confines of Hanover Street, clutching cameras, cellphones, and sometimes just hands. A pair of police motorcycles roared past, then another pair, and another. More motorcycles, this time a little slower. “Please step back,” they implored.

Several cruisers followed. Commerce stopped. Locals and tourists emerged from restaurants and cafes and jockeyed for positions. A plumber walked off the job and climbed atop his truck, sending pipes clattering noisily against each other. A girl on a fire escape steadied a video camera.

Suddenly, there it was: a simple black hearse. For a moment, the crowd was silent, reverent. And then, overtaken by the significance, cameras were dropped and silence became loud, enthusiastic, and heartfelt applause. Limousine after limousine rolled by with their windows down. Mrs. Kennedy acknowledged the ovation appreciatively. Caroline Kennedy glanced in my direction, her eyes an inscrutable mix of grief, pride, and nobility. A tour bus followed in which children dressed in their Sunday finest crammed themselves behind the large front window. Some stared at the crowds while others waved slowly. Surely they will never forget the moment when they learned how many lives one great person can touch.