Remembering John Warner, Virginia gentleman and student of the Senate

I was in the subway tunnel which stretches between the Senate Office Buildings and the U.S. Capitol. One of the underground trams which whisk people from the Dirksen Senate Office Building to the Capitol rumbled by.

And then I saw, behind the window pane of one of the tram cars, that distinctive shock of white hair. A deep, perfect cleft separated the hair as a part. 

I knew I had found my quarry: Sen. John Warner, R-Va.

Now, I had to outrace the tram to the Capitol subway station to grab Warner before he ascended the small escalator leading to the elevators. Once on the elevators, Warner would be gone, onto the Senate floor to make a roll call vote, two floors above.

And I would miss my interview. 

FORMER SEN. JOHN WARNER DEAD AT 94

I don’t recall what I needed to talk to Warner about that day in the mid-2000s when I worked in public radio. But I clenched my audio recorder and microphone and set out in a dead sprint to reach the Capitol subway station, probably 250 yards away. I even hit the record button so I would be ready to go if I caught up with Warner.

I didn’t beat the tram. Even Usain Bolt couldn’t have done that. The tram trundles along at more than 25 mph and had a head of steam. As I ran up the slight grade of the tunnel, I saw Warner, attired in a smart, blue sport coat garnished with a red pocket square, exit the tram in the station and head for the escalator.

I dialed up my sprint a notch, and, out of breath, hollered as loud as I could.

“Sen. Warner! Sen. Warner!”

Startled, Warner stopped, one hand on the black, circulating handrail of the escalator, and turned.

“Sen. Warner!” I called again.

He turned – and saw me, chugging the final 30 yards into the subway station, the tangle of a radio microphone slithering behind me on the walkway.

DAUGHTER HELPS WWII VET VISIT BEACH ONE LAST TIME BEFORE PASSING AWAY

Warner knew who I was. I interviewed the senator dozens of times and found myself in countless scrums with other reporters surrounding him in the Capitol. So he understood why I was chasing him, although he didn’t know the specific subject.

“I…..wanted…to….ask…you,” I heaved, gasping for breath.

Always the gentleman, Warner looked after his fellow man.