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Dispatches From Ford Funeral Services

Tuesday, January 2, 2007 4:04 PM

7:30 a.m. -- Before it All Started

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier cruised the two-mile funeral route from the Capitol to the Cathedral in the passenger seat of her car, Cruiser 1, at 7:30 a.m.

It was her first big event as police chief, and Lanier did not sleep at all Monday night. She was finalizing last-minute details. "The logistics for an event like this are phenomenally complicated," she said.

Lanier had assigned about 1,000 officers to work security and traffic detail for the event. She was checking on the 450 officers standing at attention in crisp dark blue uniforms and white gloves along the funeral route.

She is familiar with this type of challenge, as she is former head of the department's Special Operations Division, which handles funerals and other such events.

Lanier scribbled notes on a white sheet of paper as she rode by the troops, saying one of the keys is to make sure everyone is in place early. She smiled and called out names of officers she knew, telling them they looked sharp, and handing out white gloves to those who did not have them.

"You can really tell who is on their game," she said of certain city blocks that had all of their officers in place early. "For some people you can just see it's a point of personal pride. That's another reason for me to run the route."

She was pleased with the way things looked. In addition to securing the safety of the funeral route, she took care of one last item before she headed back to the Capitol to get in place as the first car in the funeral procession: She took Cruiser 1 through a quick car wash.

1:30 p.m. -- A Final Washington Goodbye

Former president Gerald R. Ford left Washington for the last time as Air Force One bore his casket to the Midwest after a solemn funeral at the Washington National Cathedral.

The blue and white presidential 747 took off from Andrews Air Force base just before 1:30 p.m., after a brief ceremony that included the crack of artillery and a last goodbye from members of Ford's cabinet.

At about 12:50 p.m., the black hearse carrying Ford's casket drove slowly across the tarmac at Andrews, following a convoy of about three dozen black limousines, SUVs, and other vehicles. Looking on were a crowd of military personnel and a line of a dozen Boy Scouts in khaki uniforms and red caps.

Artillery pieces boomed 21 times as the U.S. Air Force Band from Bolling Air Force Base played "Ruffles and Flourishes" and "Hail to the Chief." White clouds of smoke drifted across the silent runway.

Then, as the band broke into the soft strains of Dvorak's "Goin' Home," a military honor guard in blue removed the flag-draped coffin from the hearse. The casket-bearers crisply stepped in unison to the side, then slowly marched through a cordon of honorary pallbearers and soldiers and sailors gripping M-1 carbines.

Ahead of the coffin, an American flag carried by members of the honor guard snapped in the breeze. Ford's widow, Betty, watched the proceedings with her family, her eyes obscured behind dark sunglasses. Former president Jimmy Carter and his wife, Roslyn, also joined the Ford family for the send-off.

Ford's honorary pallbearers included his closest political allies, including Henry A. Kissinger, vice president Dick Cheney and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

As the 747 slowly rumbled down the tarmac, about to take off, Ford's former colleagues placed their hands over their hearts. Ex-housing secretary Carla Hills lifted her arm and waved at the taxiing jet, bidding farewell to her friend, the 38th president.

--Mary Beth Sheridan

At the Cathedral

A brisk cold stiff wind stretched the tiny American flags that ferried the flag-draped coffin of President Ford to the front of the National Cathedral, where people from all walks of life waited inside for the funeral to begin.

Seated among the 3700 mourners was Ben Monic, a 14-year-old Life Scout from Alexandria, Va. who was dressed in his Class A green uniform. Monic had a big red patch on his left pocket which designated that he is a Life Scout, one rank away from Eagle Scout.

"I think it was great to be here because President Ford was an Eagle Scout and I am almost an Eagle Scout," Monic said. "I think that he was a good guy."

"Gerald Ford supported scouting and he did a lot of good for the youth of the country," said Scout Master Mel Lynch of Troop 55 in Great Falls, Virginia. "They requested 100 Scouts for the funeral and they got a 100 Scouts plus."

Scout Master Mike Korigan of Cub Scout Pack 449 in Ashburn, Va. said Ford "exemplified the scouting spirit" in many ways.

--Hamil Harris

Outside the Cathedral

Gladys Lanier, a military chaplain assigned to 980th Engineer Battalion in Austin, brought roses for the late president -- a man she called a "beloved commander-in-chief."

The half-dozen roses were bright yellow, for the golden years of the Ford presidency, said Lanier, who was in town visiting injured soldiers at Walter Reed.

"He was a man who represented grace in a time when we were not very forgiving," the chaplain said.

Moments later, the face of Betty Ford, from the back of a limousine, flashed by Lanier and hundreds of other onlookers assembled behind steel barricades across Wisconsin Avenue from the cathedral.

Waving the bouquet at the motorcade, Lanier watched as the family were whisked from the cathedral to Andrews Air Force Base.

"I wish I could give it to them," she said.

Joyce Buchanan, a flight attendant for United based in London, flew into history.

She had a layover in Washington last night and by chance, found herself at a hotel three blocks from the cathedral.

Raised in Sweetwater, Texas, she knows real people, she said, and Gerald Ford was a real person, perhaps the last one to inhabit the White House.

And that's why she was spending the last hours of her layover, when she had planned to find a nice restaurant in Georgetown for lunch, waiting for a glimpse of the motorcade.

"I really respected him," Buchanan, 63, said. "He was Middle America. He was someone all of Middle America could identify with. He made his own coffee, put out the garbage and got the newspaper, and his kids all the same -- normal people. He was really the last of them."

--Henri E. Cauvin

11:15 a.m. -- A Teaching Moment

For Leisha Shaver, of Prince William County, and her son, Grant, 11, the funeral was a teaching moment. Shaver is home-schooling Grant, the youngest of her four children, and they are in the middle of American history. Although they were covering the Revolutionary War, Shaver improvised after Ford's death by gathering material from the White House Web site and other sources.

"Sometimes when history happens, you come and jump in," she said, as she stood with Grant behind a metal barricade on Wisconsin Avenue NW, near the National Cathedral.

For Andrew Houghton, the funeral was a historic opportunity missed. Houghton, visiting from England, had biked to the cathedral from Bethesda in hopes of catching a glimpse of the motorcade. But when the crowd realized the service had already begun -- and that another entrance was used -- a bit of disappointment rippled through the crowd, and none more than Houghton, who had been there since 8:30 a.m. and was told that he was in position to see what happened. "I wouldn't say they lied," said Hougton, 47, who works for Marriott Corp. "They were just sparing with the truth."

He viewed it as an "opportunity to see something unusual -- no not unusual, poignant," he said, before putting on his helmet and biking off.

--Henri Cauvin

10:00 a.m. -- Along Constitution Avenue

Among those gathered downtown to watch the funeral procession: the Haber family, who recently moved to Washington from Cleveland.

Bruce Haber has a job with a federal agency, and he, his wife and their three children stood in the blustery cold to watch a piece of history being made in their new hometown. None but dad Bruce had a memory of Gerald Ford the president. Mom Christine, 38, was in elementary school when he was president.

Yet, just like their recent tour of the area's Civil War battlefields, the funeral provided another teaching moment about American politics and history.

"This is an event that doesn't occur very often," said Bruce Haber, 48.

Jeffrey, at 11 the oldest son, said he didn't know who Ford was, but he had heard he was a "good president."

"A president is the man who runs the country and tries to make laws that help people," Jeffrey explained.

A group of electricians working at the Newseum construction site at the corner of 6th and Constitution also took a break from overseeing the wiring work there to watch history fortuitously pass by.

Sean Tredway, 28, of Laurel, hadn't been born when Ford was in the Oval Office yet he wanted to join the sparse group of spectators bearing witness as the hearse of the former president went from the Capitol to the National Cathedral.

"I've never seen anything like this before," he said. "I wasn't able to get down here for Reagan's."

His co-worker Richard Carmona, 56, a manager at Mona Electric, said their bosses wouldn't mind the short break for a president's funeral.

--Carol D. Leonnig

9:45 a.m. -- Security Concerns

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier put about 1000 officers on funeral duties. She pulled about 450 from behind desks and from other units to line the route from the Capitol to the Cathedral. Numerous federal law enforcement agencies also provided security.

--Allison Klein

9:25 a.m. -- Partisanship Checked at the Door

As the sun peeked through the trees in upper Northwest Washington, an endless line of Washington leaders, past and present, arrived at the Washington National Cathedral well in advance of the 10:30 a.m. funeral for former president Gerald R. Ford.

Partisanship was checked at the door, as mourners such as former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, former vice president Walter Mondale, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater came to pay respects.

"He served during an important time to our nation's history . . . . and he took us through Watergate," said Slater, who served in the Clinton administration.

Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, now a council member, also was there, along with numerous D.C. officials. "He was a great person. I disagreed with him at the time when he pardoned Nixon, but now I think it was the right thing to do."

Vincent C. Gray, who was sworn in as council chairman in a private ceremony before the funeral, said the funeral was a "seminal moment in history."

Celebrities turning out included Frank Gifford and his wife, Kathie Lee Gifford.

The massive bell high atop the National Cathedral tolled as the honor guard took its position on the steps.

--Hamil R. Harris

8:30 a.m. -- Outside the Capitol

The streets were mostly empty, though around 25 people gathered at the corner of Constitution and Delaware Avenues, across from the Senate entrance where Ford's casket will be brought down to a hearse.

Terry Davidson, 42, of the District, said he came partly because Ford was "one of the first presidents I can remember from when I was a kid. He was a good man. Very honest and decent. He was right to try to move the nation forward. He was probably one of the greatest presidents of my time."

-- Jerry Markon

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