8:27 a.m., Simi Valley, Calif.
A Heartfelt Send-Off in the Golden State
Jodi Wink stands next to a makeshift shrine at the bottom of the road that leads to the Reagan library. The 42-year-old data analyst has been here for an hour and keeps checking her digital camera.
She has tried twice before to see the coffin and gave up because of traffic and the wait. This is her last chance.
"I begged my boss to let me have the morning off for this," she says. She looks over gifts that mourners have left: flowers, cowboy boots and sheets of white board filled with handwritten tributes. Wink, tall and blond, picks up a green marker. "Thank you! I'm honored to share your birthday," she writes.
Reagan was the first president she ever voted for. She liked his style, especially his relationship with his wife, Nancy. "Genuine devotion," Wink says.
Atop the hill, the Reagan family gathers for prayer inside the library. A Marine band plays "Hail to the Chief." Then pallbearers lift the coffin.
Wink sees the hearse coming down the hill. Mourners are still rushing to the scene, gasping for breath. A row of police officers snaps to attention and salutes. Wink checks her camera again.
The motorcade turns and speeds toward the Navy's Point Mugu air station, passing onlookers clustered on freeway overpasses and farmers in coastal fields who hold their hats over their hearts. Nancy Reagan waves as she boards the plane carrying her husband's body.
At the library, Wink looks with delight at the pictures she has taken. "I usually get disappointed in politicians today," she says. "He was the last of his kind."
-- Rene Sanchez