A Dash to Prepare for Reagan Rites
A House official gave a rough estimate of $1.5 million for the Capitol's share of this week's ceremonies. The official said the Ronald Reagan Memorial Foundation was expected to pick up two-thirds of the cost and that congressional agencies would absorb the rest.
Natwar M. Gandhi, the District's chief financial officer, estimated local police, transportation and public works costs at $500,000 and said the city would seek federal reimbursement. The District planned to offer water and medical aid to people attending events today, when temperatures could reach into the 90s.
Outside the Capitol yesterday, men in uniform representing each of the armed services carried an empty coffin draped in an American flag during a dress rehearsal.
Groups of tourists in shorts and T-shirts milled about and snapped pictures as they might on any day -- only this time, some sensed that their memories of this day would not soon fade.
"Reagan was an awesome president, and it's just historic to be here," said Deborah Rocchild, 35, of San Francisco, who was visiting with her husband, Oscar, and their son, Christian, 6.
Daniel Delorimier, 14, who was in a group of boys from a Catholic school in Salinas, Calif., said his parents had told him that Reagan had been a "great president."
"I was excited because he will only [lie] in state for three days and this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance," Daniel said.
Meanwhile, more foreign dignitaries confirmed they will attend Friday's funeral at Washington National Cathedral, including South African President Thabo Mbeki and Canada's head of state, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, according to officials. The Vatican also announced that its secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, would represent Pope John Paul II. Lech Walesa, Poland's former president and founder of the Solidarity trade union, also said he would attend the funeral, according to a wire service report.
And former president Gerald R. Ford, whose presence was in doubt for health reasons, will attend, said Penny Circle, his chief of staff.
Transportation officials braced for backups that were expected to start this afternoon. D.C. police announced that the motorcade carrying the former president's body would start into the city on Suitland Parkway to avoid rush-hour traffic on the Capital Beltway.
Officials nevertheless advised drivers to use Route 301 or the western arc of the Beltway to avoid the Andrews area. Transportation officials added highway crews, posted signs alerting drivers to road closures and pleaded for people to take mass transit.
Lon Anderson, a spokesman for AAA, said: "There will be enormous disruption downtown. . . . But I think traffic will be all right because the federal government has given plenty of warning."
Downtown hotel managers said they expect most guests attending Reagan funeral events to check in today or tomorrow.
Miami Beach business consultant Anthony Ferrari, his wife, Jessie, their young daughter and a five-car entourage of aides already were encamped at the Madison Hotel yesterday. Ferrari hoped to see the horse-drawn procession to the Capitol tonight and perhaps see Reagan's coffin in the Capitol Rotunda tomorrow.
"I'm a big fan of President Reagan," he said. "I met him once. . . . The man had a big impact on America. He really loved this country and it showed."
Staff writers Charles Babington, Karlyn Barker, Stephen Barr, Steven Ginsberg, Avram Goldstein, Sari Horwitz, Allan Lengel, Caryle Murphy, Lena H. Sun, Martin Weil and Clarence Williams and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Lighting technician Russell Wicks sets up spotlights in the 186-foot-high Capitol Rotunda, where Ronald Reagan's coffin will lie in state.
(Bill O'Leary -- The Washington Post)