Nelson Mandela Death: South African Embassy memorial grows

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - The rain soaked flags at half-staff outside the South African Embassy on Friday. At the base of the recently dedicated statue to Nelson Mandela, there are dozens of flowers that have been placed in tribute since his death a little more than 24 hours ago.

"We're celebrating a life more than mourning a loss. A great man," said Nathaniel Johnson.

Inside the Embassy, there has been a steady stream of visitors signing a condolence book. Among them is South African and 21-year-old Jean-Pierre Vindermeree. He was born just two years after Mandela was freed.

"Nelson Mandela was obviously a great leader to all of us, and he was a great inspiration to all of us, and what he did for us, words just can't describe the way we feel about all of them," he said.

Just steps away from that condolence book, the South African Ambassador summed up what Mandela’s passing means for his country.

"A part of our hearts are ripped out because Nelson Mandela was an anchor of everything we stood for," said Ebrahim Rasool.

Meanwhile, the condolence book at the National African Art Museum is quickly filling up with messages – including this one by Carlos Santana:

"The lion king went home to be with our Lord Supreme. He implanted in our DNA, live your light."

"And if we can write messages to send to the Mandela family, then why shouldn't we? In the spirit of democracy that he so stood for… give that opportunity to any and everyone," said Johnetta B. Cole, the Director of the National African Art Museum.

South African expatriates now living in D.C. recall Mandela’s visit in 1990., and in Mandela’s homeland, acts of jubilation still pay homage to the man credited with unifying his nation.

As the world enters 10 days of mourning, this condolence book will allow Washingtonians to pour out their hearts.

And across town, Mandela’s impact on the world is on display at the Newseum. The world’s newspapers are displayed as usual – but on Friday, all of them have Mandela on the front page.

And half a world away in South Africa, crowds gather to celebrate the country’s first black president by singing and dancing. Mandela’s body was moved earlier on Friday from Johannesburg to Pretoria, where he will lie next week.

"I was really fortunate that the daughter of Nelson Mandela phoned me to tell me that that he'd passed, " said Rasool. "She did that out of respect for the people of the United States of America."

The 95 year old, known for his unwavering resilience and integrity died thousand of mile and several seas away, but his lifelong struggle to unify his nation has eternally touched those at the memorial.

Nightly vigils will be held here until the U.S memorial service, which is planned for Wednesday at the National Cathedral.