The senators decided to take part in the ceremony, stay overnight in Bangor and fly on to Halifax in the morning.

“Then, who comes in but Janet Napolitano,” Collins went on. Napolitano, who was traveling to Halifax on a separate flight, also had been diverted to Bangor due to the weather. She, too, agreed to greet the troops and stay overnight.

As the troop greeters arrived and prepared to welcome a flight of U.S. Marines bound for Afghanistan, the VIPs lined up alongside them. As the Marines deplaned, Collins said, the first few walked through the double line of greeters without recognizing McCain or the others.

“So I started yelling out, ‘Senator McCain is here to greet you,’” Collins said. That brought the troops crowding around. “Everyone was taking pictures with their cell phones,” she said.