Outside Andrews, a Crowd Gathers to See History
The spectators sit down on lawn chairs on the trim grass outside McDonald's, across from the gate where Ronald Reagan's hearse will depart Andrews Air Force Base.
"A great man," says Clinton Bowman, 82, squinting behind thick tinted glasses, a commemorative World War II cap atop his gray head. His wife bounces their two Yorkshire terriers on her knees.
A few feet away is Suitland Road, which will take the former president through the town of Morningside, past Tommy's Auto Body and the Red Octopus tattoo parlor and VFW Post 9619.
A mechanic from Grenada plants his country's green, red and yellow flag in the grass along with a sign: "Ronald Reagan, Grenada says Thank You." A woman in a wide-brimmed pink hat clutches an American flag in the breezeless swelter. Bill Walter, 42, his gray hair tied in a ponytail, descends from his Harley and wonders why the crowd isn't larger.
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