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.

Perry, now a substance abuse counselor, focuses his camcorder.

"It's not like I'm honoring him; I'm honoring the office of the president," he says. "I want to make history real for my grandchildren."

En route to the U.S. Capitol, the procession moves through the District on two interstates and juts into Virginia, across the 14th Street bridge and along George Washington Memorial Parkway. There, it travels past the perfect-blue river dotted with boats, along trails filled with bicyclists.

At 5:58 p.m., it begins the slow arc to the right that will take it across the Potomac and back into the city.

About 80 people stand at the turn and watch silently. For more than two hours, Jane Hughes has waited with her husband and young children to pay respect to a man she says changed the world.

It takes only a moment for the dark procession to pass them at the Virginia end of Memorial Bridge.

"That was fast," says Hughes, 39, of Alexandria. "But, you know, we're here." She looks down at her children, Margaret, 6, and George, 4. "We'll have to remind them," she says.

-- Theola Labbe and Amy Argetsinger