A Nation and the World Pay Tribute to Reagan
Body to Lie in State at Capitol; State Funeral Set for Friday
By Rene Sanchez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 7, 2004; Page A01
LOS ANGELES, June 6 -- Amid national mourning and global tributes, the family of Ronald Reagan detailed on Sunday weeklong memorial plans for the former president that will include public services in Washington and California.
Reaction to Reagan's death Saturday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease continued to reverberate around the world Sunday, and set into motion meticulous preparations for the first state funeral in the nation's capital in more than 30 years. The solemn event will require enormous security as scores of world leaders and thousands of mourners arrive in the city.
Reagan, 93, died Saturday afternoon at his home here with his wife, Nancy, and two of his children beside him. He had spent a decade out of public view afflicted with a disease that had destroyed his memory and cognizance.
Since his passing, an outpouring of affection and respect for the former two-term president has spread from small towns to world capitals, although some Middle East leaders were critical.
President Bush, in France with other world leaders Sunday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, extolled Reagan as a "gallant leader in the cause of freedom."
In Plains, Ga., former president Jimmy Carter, who lost to Reagan in 1980, also paid homage. "This is a sad day for our country," Carter said before teaching Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church. "I probably know as well as anybody what a formidable communicator and campaigner that President Reagan was. It was because of him that I was retired from my last job."
Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry said Sunday that he is canceling public campaigning for a week in deference to Reagan's family. Speaking to graduating high school students in Michigan, Kerry called Reagan a "modern giant" and said, "Yesterday, we lost one of our greatest optimists."
As the nation grieved, a Reagan family spokeswoman detailed the last moments of his life and announced memorial plans that will include a horse-drawn procession Wednesday evening down Constitution Avenue to the Capitol, where the former president will lie in state through Thursday. There will be a funeral Friday morning at Washington National Cathedral.
Joanne Drake, Reagan's chief of staff since he left office, said that Nancy Reagan summoned family members to the couple's hillside home in Bel-Air on Saturday morning amid signs that his health was rapidly deteriorating. Drake declined to describe the president's last weeks of life, saying that subject was private.
Reagan's family, she said, is exhausted from the vigil it held at his bedside in his final days, and is at once profoundly saddened and relieved by his passing.
"There's definitely a sense of relief that he is no longer suffering and has gone to a better place," Drake told reporters outside a mortuary in Santa Monica where Reagan's body was brought Saturday evening.
She said that Nancy Reagan is "deeply touched" by the outpouring of affection for the late president. "It's been a really hard 10 years for her," Drake said, adding later, "It's going to be a hard six days" for her this week.
Across the country Sunday, makeshift memorials to the former president blossomed. Americans came in droves to his birthplace and boyhood home in Illinois, to his presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif., to his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and to the mortuary's lawn.
All day long there, mourners gently placed gifts to the Reagan family. They planted small U.S. flags in the ground and brought flowers, photographs, a cowboy hat -- even jars of jelly beans, Reagan's favorite candy.
Some mourners stood on the lawn, bowing their heads in prayer near a cardboard sign that said, "God Bless the Gipper." A sailor in dress whites came to salute.
"He loved America," said Richard Paul, a film editor in Los Angeles who came to pay homage to Reagan outside the mortuary. "You could feel it."
Drake said that memorial plans are proceeding according to Reagan's wishes. She said he requested that services be held in both Washington and Southern California, where he lived much of his life, and that they be open to ordinary Americans, not just world leaders.
"It was really important to him that people have the opportunity to pay their respects if they wanted," Drake said.
Reagan's body is scheduled to be moved from the Santa Monica mortuary Monday morning and brought to his presidential library in Simi Valley, where it is to lie in repose for visitors to pay their respects until Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday morning, Reagan's body is to be flown to Andrews Air Force Base and driven to a site near the Washington Monument. There his casket will be loaded on to a horse-drawn caisson and led up Constitution Avenue to the Capitol by a solitary drummer. In the Capitol Rotunda, Reagan will lie in state through the night and until Thursday evening. His casket will be closed.
Bush on Sunday declared that Friday would be a national day of mourning for the former president, saying that Reagan's "optimism, strength, and humility epitomized the American spirit."
A funeral will be held at Washington National Cathedral. Then Reagan will be flown back to California for a sunset burial on the grounds of his presidential library, beneath an oak tree on a hillside overlooking the Pacific.
As preparations were made for Reagan's memorial events, tributes continued to flow in from around the world. He was praised for his role in ending the Cold War and strengthening the United States.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev described Reagan as "a great president, with whom the Soviet leadership was able to launch a very difficult but important dialogue." He said Reagan's accomplishments included helping to "stop the nuclear race, start scrapping nuclear weapons, and arrange normal relations between our countries."
Gorbachev said his summit meetings with Reagan "kick-started the process which ultimately put an end to the Cold War."
"I do not know how other statesmen would have acted at that moment, because the situation was too difficult," he told the Russian news agency Interfax. "Reagan, whom many considered extremely rightist, dared to make these steps, and this is his most important deed."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who was one of Reagan's national security advisers, said on CBS's "Face the Nation": "He believed, ultimately, that the Soviet Union was a failed political system. It was his role as president to help bring about the end, not to push them over a cliff, but to help guide them to the realization that there was a better political system for them."
In a letter of condolence to Bush, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Reagan's "vision of a free and united Europe created the conditions for change that in the end made the restoration of German unity possible." The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the year Reagan stepped down as president, paving the way for the reunification of Germany.
Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi expressed regret that Reagan died without standing trial for U.S. airstrikes in 1986 that killed Gaddafi's adopted daughter and 36 other people in Libya, the country's official JANA news agency reported. Reagan ordered the air attack in response to a disco bombing in Berlin that Gaddafi allegedly instigated and that killed two U.S. soldiers and a Turkish woman, and injured 229 people.
Lebanon's culture minister, Ghazi Aridi, said the Reagan years marked the beginning of a "bad era" of U.S. Middle East policy that continues to this day, the Associated Press reported. "In Reagan's days, the destroyer New Jersey bombed poor areas of Mount Lebanon, the Americans protected Israel's invasion of Lebanon and joined the Israelis in imposing the May 17 agreements," Aridi said, referring to a failed deal to withdraw Israeli troops.
"Reagan's role was bad for the Arab-Israeli conflict and was specifically against Syria. He was the victim of the Israeli right wing that was, and still is, dominating the White House," Syria's former ambassador to the United Nations, Haitham Kilani, was quoted as saying.
Calls to the Reagan family in California were more supportive.
Drake said that Nancy Reagan has spoken to an array of national and world leaders since her husband's death, including former presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford; former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher; and the Rev. Billy Graham.
"The phone has been ringing literally to the point where it's hard to keep up with it," Drake said.
Outside the Santa Monica mortuary, crowds of mourners kept coming. Donna Glassman, 60, was among them.
"When I think of him, I think of America," she said. "What's that saying -- American like Mom and apple pie? He should be in that, too. Because he represented what this country is all about."
Staff writer Michael Dobbs in Washington contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company