Scenes From the Funeral Ceremonies
Friday, June 11, 2004; 2:36 PM
Washington today hosts the formal funeral service for former president Ronald Reagan at the National Cathedral. Here are a few of the scenes and voices of people involved in the day's ceremonies as captured by Washington Post staff writers.
Capturing It on Video
At 11:52 a.m., Jim Flanagan stood at the side of 17th Street, just in front of the World War II memorial, and perched atop his small Coleman cooler in search of the best vantage point to watch the motorcade. Aiming his video camera, he started recording history.
"There's a sea of people, all colors of umbrellas," Flanagan said into the camera's microphone. "So quiet, everything is quiet."
Flanagan, 57, of Bowie, described the officers in blue dress uniforms, lining the street and saluting. He panned the camera over the crowd, where students on a tour had stopped to watch. Then he captured the image of the hearse.
"Goodbye, Mr. President," Flanagan told his camera.
-- Maria Glod, 2:20 p.m.
A Busy Week
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said that 104,684 people visited the Capitol Rotunda while Reagan's body lay in state for about 35 hours starting Wednesday night. Another 1,327 were cleared by Capitol Police to watch the departure ceremony along the south panel of the west front lawn.
The Capitol Police also issued 16,610 claim checks for personal items not allowed in the Rotunda and returned all but 10 items. They also hand-carried 35,000 other articles, such as backpacks, chairs, strollers, coolers and blankets from the area where people entered the Capitol on the House side to the door on the Senate side where people exited the Capitol. Gainer said the police also distributed over 200,000 bottles of water.
--Sari Horwitz, 1:35 p.m.
Showing a Little Patience
Edward Worek, 83, of Levittown, Pa., and a World War II veteran wanted to visit the new World War II memorial, but instead found his wheelchair trapped on the east side of 17th Street around 10:30 a.m. when even pedestrian traffic was blocked to clear a path for Reagan's funeral procession. Worek, part of an Army infantry unit that invaded Omaha Beach in June 1944, had been for months eagerly anticipating this trip to Washington, a gift from his grandson. But he patiently waited the hour it took for Reagan's procession to ride through, and even stood out of his wheelchair for a minute as the former president's body passed in the hearse.
"He did a good job as a president. He did his part to end the Cold War," Worek said. "I guess I owe him a little of my patience."
-- Carol D. Leonnig, 1:25 p.m.
A Time for Children to Remember
Shortly after 1 p.m. people started to gather at the intersection of Suitland and Allentown roads in anticipation of the Reagan funeral procession to Andrews Air Force Base. While many African Americans didn't support Reagan's views, that fact didn't stop Dawn Ross from bringing her three sons, ages 11, 8 and 7, to the intersection.
"I wanted them to see a little history," she said. "I wanted them to be part of it because Ronald Reagan was well-liked. Everybody has their own feelings about the individual, but regardless of those feelings, he was president. When they get older, they will be able to tell their children they were here."
--Hamil R. Harris, 1:18 p.m.
Some Workers Take Time to Watch
In conference rooms, barrooms, hardware stores and hair salons, Washingtonians who didn't get the day off paused in their workdays to witness history through their television screens.
"I was really young when Reagan was president, so it's interesting to learn so much about history and his presidency and kind-of witness all this now," said Christine Haynes, who gathered in a 17th Street NW conference room with her colleagues at The Scowcroft Group, a team of business consultants headed by former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. "It seems like a little bit of every age group is in here, having their own reactions watching the funeral. Sadness, sentimentality and just pure interest, like me."
At the Ace Hardware Store in Adams-Morgan and Capitol Hill Florist on Capitol Hill, workers craned their necks past hammers and rose bouquets to watch the ceremony. "It's history, how could we not watch it?" one florist said, while still trying to fill his floral orders for the day.
The attorneys working at the National Air Carrier Association in downtown D.C. holed up in their offices to watch the ceremony. So it was a quiet day for receptionist Vanessa Hedgepeth, who wanted to watch the ceremony as well, but couldn't get away from ringing phones and her desk.
"I pulled it up on the Internet so I could watch it, that worked really well. I couldn't miss watching something like this happening so close by," Hedgepeth said.
-- Petula Dvorak, 1:07
Thoughts of Nancy Reagan
Nancy Reagan was very much on the minds of the onlookers who gathered near the intersection of Third Street NW and Constitution Avenue, many of whom said that their most poignant moments of the week involved watching her. They studied her body language while watching services on television, looking for the smallest clue.
"When his wife went up to the casket and put her head down and kind of rubbed it, that was very touching and emotional," said Steve Solomon, 56, a federal printing office employee and Silver Spring resident. "This was at the service at his library in California. Then, at the Capitol, she made an attempt to put her cheek on the coffin but something popped into her mind and she decided against it. I have no clue what was going on in her mind right then."
"What a lovely lady," said John Berger, 47, a business analyst from Brooklyn. "You see the emotion just in her hand gestures. JFK and Jackie had nothing on Ronnie and Nancy. What a great love story!"
-- Annie Gowen, 12:40 p.m.
Service Is a Honor
The McDonald's restaurant has been transformed into a staging area for people that are scheduled to be part of the final tribute for Reagan in a hanger at Andrews Air Force Base.
There were young Air Force airmen in crisp, blue uniforms, congressional staff members in dark suits and ties and a U.S. Park Police lieutenant who gladly volunteered to patrol the Suitland Parkway that leads to Suitland Road and the entrance to the base.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pay respect to a great president," said Ed Doddy, 23, a congressional staffer who felt fortunate to have a ticket to the final farewell ceremony inside Andrews.
Lt. John Dewey, who has been a park police officer for 16 years, said that it was an honor to have the assignment of making sure the Reagan motorcade went unimpeded onto the base. "I'm enjoying doing this. It has been an honor," he said.
But not everyone at the McDonald's shared in the warm feelings toward Reagan. Michelle Harrison, a 14-year-old from Camp Springs, grabbed her burger and fries and stood in front of a television for a few minutes. Then she said, "I think that this is a waste of time. They wouldn't do all of this if he was a Democrat. Ronald Reagan didn't do anything for black people, but now they are trying to make it like he is a god."
-- Hamil R. Harris, 12:30 p.m.
Many Tears Among the Mourners
The tears flowed as freely as the rain as the presidential hearse passed by the corner of Independence Avenue and 7th Street NW at 10:53 a.m.
Lana Moeller, in town from South Dakota with her family, dabbed her eyes. "It's very emotional because of who he was and what he represented," said Moeller, 51. "There's a lot of history here."
Nearby, Jennifer Dorn struggled to contain her emotions. Her reason was more personal: She was associate deputy secretary of transportation in the Reagan Administration.
"I don't really know how to say this," said Dorn, 53, now administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, her eyes red with tears. "You just feel so fortunate that he was here when he was."
-- Jerry Markon, 12:05 p.m.
Trying to Find a Television
A color television set was set up on the front counter of the McDonalds restaurant across the street from the main entrance of Andrews Air Force Base.
Even though most people were in the restaurant to order hamburgers and fries, Air Force Technical Sgt. Mark Juarez, 35, from San Antonio, Tex., came to the restaurant to watch the ceremonies, taking a seat to see Reagan's casket was taken into the National Cathedral.
"This is history," he said.
--Hamil R. Harris, 11:45 a.m.
Adding Meaning to a Vacation
Billy and Carol Vickers of Norcross, Ga., got more than they bargained for on their 40th anniversary vacation to Washington. The trip, paid for by their daughters, allowed them to be here for Reagan's funeral. "We feel honored it worked out like this," Carol Vickers said.
Billy Vickers said they had voted for Reagan and the country had lost an honorable man. "He had a great sense of humor and he was always the same," he said. "He was always a person you could depend on."
After the hearse went past Independence Avenue, Carol Vickers said that their trip was complete. The wait was worth the 30 seconds of seeing the hearse. "We saw it from start to finish."
-- Dakarai I. Aarons, 11:15 a.m.
Tribute From a Roof
As President Reagan's funeral procession passed the intersection of 3rd Street and Independence Avenue NW, work on the new Smithsonian American Indian Museum came to a halt. Construction workers on the roof stood and paused to honor the president.
It was a somber day on the job site, said Mike Brooks, 46, a window-glazer from Pasadena, Md. He said all 13 guys on his crew stopped their work. "He was a helluva good man, a good president, and a quiet guy," he said. "He took care of business and was one of the better [presidents] we've had."
-- Eric M. Weiss, 11:10 a.m.
At 10:47 a.m., crowds remained sparse along Massachusetts' Avenue's Embassy Row, and a misting rain had begun to fall.
Embassy employees stood in doorways, awaiting the procession.
Police officers in dress uniform stood every dozen yards or so, hands crossed solemnly behind their backs. Helicopters roared overhead. Sirens erupted every few minutes.
Unlike the crowds who had waited in line for hours outside the Capitol on Thursday to go through the Rotunda to pay respect to Reagan, many of those who came out yesterday were District residents who said they opposed many of Reagan's policies, but wanted to view history.
"It has nothing to do with politics, really. It's about history, ceremony, pageantry," said Chris Cobb, 74, who sat on the curb outside the Turkish Embassy. "I want to see it really happening. Not just on television. That's part of the joy of living in Washington."
Shortly before Reagan's casket was to leave Capitol Hill, about a dozen activists from District's Anti-War Network (DAWN) walked north on Massachusetts Avenue toward the Cathedral, in a silent vigil.
They held hand-lettered white poster boards decrying Reagan's policies.
"Ronald Reagan's Victims," read one sign, showing seven individual tombstones. "Lebanon. People With Aids. Nicaragua. The Poor. Honduras. Libya."
The person at the front of the vigil held a placard reading, "It's Fascism in America."
-- Debbi Wilgoren, 11 a.m.
"I Had to Be Here"
A husband and wife from Warren, Mich., sat inside a Metrobus shelter on Independence Avenue SW Friday morning. But they weren't waiting for the 13A or the 13G bus. They were waiting for a president.
Charlene, 54, and Darryl Zink, 57, with a video recorder in hand, had driven eight hours yesterday and waited 3 1/2 more in line to view Reagan's coffin at the Capitol Rotuna.
"I just felt I had to be here," Darryl Zink said. They'll be back on the road again soon. Tomorrow is their grandson's birthday party.
-- Nicole Fuller, 10:55 a.m.
A Good Vantage Point
Reverend Thurman H. Babbs, 66, wasn't sitting along Independence Avenue this morning to say goodbye to Reagan -- he was eating his breakfast. Babbs, who is homeless, was enjoying a beef salami on multigrain wheat bread sandwich with some barbecue sauce for taste.
"I have no political agenda or nothing," Babbs said. "This is just where I am everyday."
In an army fatigue overcoat, Babbs wasn't bashful about holding up his cardboard sign that read, "Veteran. Help me. Homeless," pointing to a coin filled plastic cup.
Asked what he thought about the crowd gathered to say farewell to Reagan, Babbs replied, "I think it's very fitting, very proper. He was president of the United States."
-- Nicole Fuller, 10:55 a.m.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company