SALEM — On a cold Saturday a week before Christmas, this city was draped in red, white, blue — and yellow — to pay its final respects to Army Sgt. James Ayube II, who was killed 12 days ago by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
There were American flags and yellow ribbons all the way from St. James Church on Federal Street, where the funeral was held, to Salem Willows, where neighbors huddled in the cold as the procession passed.
A large group of Boy Scouts stood in front of Wesley United Methodist Church on North Street, where Ayube attended Scout meetings, waving flags as the long funeral procession bearing the solider's body wound its way through the city.
The were hundreds of mourners from Salem, but many others from out of state and other towns. One elderly woman waited along Derby Street in a wheelchair; two men stood on a rooftop near Harmony Grove Cemetery; and one veteran was a lone sentry on Memorial Drive.
Gina Atwood and her son Alex, 3, waited on the front steps of their Derby Street home under U.S. and Marine Corps flags.
"We usually take them down in the winter, but I put them back up for today," said Atwood, 36, whose husband served in Pakistan and Afghanistan. "This kind of hits close to home."
The Fire Department draped its Derby Street headquarters and a former station on Fort Avenue in giant American flags. The department hung another huge flag from the extended ladders of two trucks that formed an arch at the bottom of the North Street overpass.
One of the largest crowds greeted the family at Harmony Grove Cemetery, where Ayube's casket was carried to the grave site by an Army honor guard.
"No parent should have to go through this, no wife, no child," said Steve Keenan, 60, a retired Somerville firefighter who stood near the cemetery gate with his fractured leg in a plastic boot. "We owe him and his comrades more than we can ever pay back."