Page 4 of 5   <       >

A Final Journey Through Washington

By 4:45 p.m., the number of spectators grows past 50 -- then, in minutes, past 100. A retired federal worker carrying a crucifix suggests that Reagan's visage be added to Mount Rushmore. Frank Dubois, 48, an American University professor, tries to make sense of the adulation: "He hurt the environment; there was double-digit inflation. I just don't get it."

Just before 5 p.m., word spreads that the plane has landed. The crowd creeps toward the road. Paul Mays, 67, a retired engineer, says he never thought much of Reagan's politics and policies, though that hardly seems to matter just now.

"This is history," he says as the procession emerges from the gate. Nancy Reagan waves from her limousine. The crowd erupts in cheers.

A few moments later, the corner is bare again.

-- Paul Schwartzman

5:43 p.m.

In Southeast, a Glimpse

The brisk dribbling at the Barry Farm Recreation Center in Southeast Washington stops. Sweaty young boys in tank tops and shorts suspend their basketball game to join the crowd lining Suitland Parkway.

Official Washington, with its scripted ceremonies, is within sight and reach, a sharp right-hand turn onto Firth Sterling Avenue SE and across the Anacostia River. But this crowd of more than 100 African American Washingtonians will greet the motorcade first.

A siren sounds and an officer stops traffic. "This is taking too long," says a woman in a black miniskirt and scoop-neck top. The police blare on a horn: "Everyone must stand 10 feet away from the roadway."

Robert M. Perry fusses with his camcorder and moves the tripod to find the best angle. He has a camera around his neck and looks through the lens to check the view.

"I'm going to tell my grandchildren that he passed through 'The Farms,' he passed through the neighborhood to get to where he needed to go," Perry says in a gravelly voice.

The tall, burly 53-year-old grew up six blocks away and didn't like Reagan's presidency. "The trickle-down theory [of economics] never really trickled down."

The police motorcycles, two abreast, round the bend, followed by sleek black sedans with subdued flashing lights. Then the hearse. The American flag peeps out of one of the car's windows.

<             4        >

© 2004 The Washington Post Company