As morning broke over the Capitol, the first of the mourners who had waited in the overnight hours for one last visit with former president Ronald Reagan emerged from the Rotunda. Some scattered across the Mall. Others found themselves pulled to yet another rope line.
Those willing to spend just a few more minutes waiting were invited to write condolences in bound, ruled notebooks stacked on tables under a small white tent at Capitol Square.
"Here's to the last patriot," someone wrote. "You changed the world."
As they queued up, Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) greeted them.
"Thanks for coming. . . . Where you from? Thanks for honoring our president," Shays said over and over. The congressman had taken up his post about 5 a.m. -- "I first started greeting the 1 o'clock crowd." He said he'd felt a little guilty about not having to stand in line to view Reagan's flag-draped coffin "while people were waiting for hours and hours. This is my penitence."
And so, as the cool morning air gave way to the sticky afternoon heat, Shays, dressed in khakis and a blue oxford, continued to greet the crowds until about 1 p.m.
"Are you with the family?" someone would ask now and again.
On a leather-bound notepad, Shays scrawled in blue ink the states from which the people had come: Texas. Idaho. California. North Carolina. Ohio. Minnesota. "Someone drove from Wyoming," he marveled.
On the first full day of viewing at the Capitol Rotunda, thousands came to show their affection for the 40th president, or simply to witness a historic event. Some made long trips, like Kurt and Lera Wullenwebber and their neighbor, Jonathan Hogue, who arrived at the Capitol about 3:45 a.m., after driving for nine hours from Jacksonville, Fla., then waited in line for three hours. Others, such as Adrian Hicks and his 10-year-old daughter, Adriane, of Southeast Washington, made a short trip.
In the afternoon, U.S. Capitol Police stopped the flow of the crowd while former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan's old rival and then his friend, entered. He stood to the south of the flag-draped coffin, bowed his head and then reached out to touch the flag on the coffin.
Later, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani entered the Rotunda arm-in-arm with his wife, Judith.
Those not famous enough to skip to the head of the line happily waited, walking slowly through a maze of Jersey barriers, clutching cameras, water bottles, the morning papers. They chatted among themselves, caught up on summer reading and, in at least one case, studied for a science quiz. Many said they had voted for Reagan, and some used the occasion to make political statements about Reagan's conservative ideals.
Christine Wofford, 51, who journeyed to Washington from her home in Canton, Mich., held a sign that said, "Thank you, President Reagan, for protecting the unborn babies."
"I like your sign," a woman said to Wofford as they passed in line.
Tom Noce clutched five red roses as he waited. They represented the Fifth Commandment -- "Thou shall not kill," he said -- and his approval of Reagan's antiabortion stance. He was hoping to give them to someone associated with the Reagan funeral, figuring he probably would not be allowed to leave them on top of the coffin.
In the Capitol, staff members lined up in the Senate's subway tunnel to wait for a chance to pass through the Rotunda and were as awed as the public waiting outside.
"He was the first president I paid attention to," said Ellen Stein of Newport News, Republican staff director of a Senate environmental subcommittee.
"I remember where I was when he was shot. I was in middle school. They came on the intercom and announced the president had been shot. . . . I remember where I was when the Berlin Wall fell."
Most of the people who stood in line wore casual clothing -- shorts and sneakers, T-shirts and caps. But hundreds of families dressed as if they were attending a relative's funeral: little boys in blue blazers, little girls in frilly dresses with big bows. The mothers wore somber dresses, and the dads donned dark suits.
"I wore this to my father's funeral, and you know what? He would be so proud to know that I wore it to Ronald Reagan's funeral," said Debra Miller, 47, who home-schools her five children and brought them from Naugatuck, Conn., for a live civics lesson. She wore a simple black jumper and a white blouse.
Miller recalled how her father called her in 1980 to remind her of the importance of voting in her first presidential election -- and of the importance of voting for Ronald Wilson Reagan, who, she said, taught her to believe in her country and herself.
"He taught me about the issues. He encouraged me," Miller said of her father.
Tearful as she left the Rotunda, she waited in line to write in a condolence book:
"Ronald Reagan, forever in our hearts. Patriotism forever in our souls."