COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (21Alive) – A couple from Columbia City just happened to be in South Africa when Nelson Mandela passed away.
Dennis and Barbara Geimer were in South Africa to celebrate a lifetime event when another one happened. The Geimers just returned from Johannesburg Monday morning after spending 11 days there for their son’s wedding, who's been living there for seven years. During their visit, the former South African President Nelson Mandela died.
"You wouldn't believe the amount of people that were there. It was amazing,” said Barbara.
America got the news of Mandela's death Thursday night, but with the seven hour difference, the Geimers didn't find out until Friday morning.
Dennis says it was more of a celebration, with singing and dancing, since the people had known Mandela's been ill since June. "People were genuinely happy that Mandela had went ‘home’, as they put it,” he said.
The place the Geimers stayed was only 14 blocks from Mandela's home. People had to park five to 10 blocks away just to pay their respects at the front gate. "[There were all] The flowers, candles that were lit, cards, stuffed animals. The media was there broadcasting live, [there were] even little kids with flowers,” said Barbara.
They even captured a shot of Mandela's grandson, Mandla, leaving the home.
The Geimers say it was a heartfelt experience, and they felt they were taking part in history.
"It was the mix of people. All colors of people, all religions, ages,” said Dennis. “It was just amazing that what South Africa is made up of was there. It was South Africa and the world, and they were there to celebrate what this man did for us in this world."
"People loved him,” said Barbara. “And you just felt good that you were part of this, and that you were there to pay your respects. It was just wonderful to see all these people come together to honor such a wonderful man."
President Obama and the First Lady boarded Air Force One at Andrews Air Force base Monday morning. Former president George W. Bush, his wife Laura, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were also aboard the plane. The memorial service for Mandela will be held Tuesday at a soccer stadium in Soweto. Approximately 100 heads of state are expected to gather at the 95,000 capacity stadium.
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