- The Washington Times - Friday, June 11, 2004

As many as 4,000 U.S. officials, foreign heads of state and family friends of Ronald Reagan will pay their final respects to the former president today at the first national funeral in Washington in more than 30 years.

President Bush and more than a thousand U.S. government officials and members of Congress will be at the Washington National Cathedral in Northwest, when the service begins at 11:30 a.m., and many of the District’s thoroughfares will be closed as the former president’s casket is ushered there from the Capitol.

Members of the Senate and their spouses have been reserved 200 seats, with an additional 870 seats reserved for members of the House and their spouses.

Former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton will attend the service.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will be on hand, as will Britain’s Prince Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry will be among those attending, a Kerry staffer said.

Although many countries will be represented by senior diplomats and foreign ministers, the heads of state from Germany, Italy, Ireland, South Africa, Nigeria, Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Afghanistan, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Grenada and Haiti have confirmed that they will be present.

An elaborate chart of the planned seating arrangements shows that the two central rows of seating in the middle of the massive, 30-story-high cathedral, will be filled on one side by distinguished visitors and on the other by the Reagan family and about a thousand of their friends.

Former Sen. John C. Danforth, an ordained Episcopal minister from Missouri who is the nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, will conduct the service. Irish tenor Ronan Tynan will perform Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”

Mr. Reagan will be eulogized by Mr. Bush, former President George Bush and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher will provide a recorded eulogy.

Rabbi Harold Kushner and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will give readings at the ceremony. In 1981, Justice O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the high court after being nominated by Mr. Reagan.

Security for the event is being managed by the U.S. Secret Service and involves thousands of police and federal law-enforcement agents. The Army Military District of Washington will be responsible for shuttling thousands of dignitaries to and from the site.

The funeral procession is expected to leave Capitol Hill between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m. today. It will travel west on Constitution Avenue, south on Third Street, west on Independence Avenue, north on 17th Street, west on Pennsylvania Avenue, north on 22nd Street, west on Massachusetts Avenue and north on Wisconsin Avenue to the cathedral.

The procession route and intersecting streets will close 30 minutes in advance, except for an area around the cathedral bounded by Macomb Street, Massachusetts Avenue, 34th Street and Idaho Avenue, which will close at 9 a.m. People who live in the area must show proof of residency to enter, Metropolitan Police said.

Officials at the National Cathedral yesterday cited security concerns for not releasing specific details about where people will be sitting during the ceremony or the order in which the distinguished guests will be arriving.

Gregory A. Rixon, public affairs director for the National Cathedral, said the security details of many foreign dignitaries will have to wait outside.

“We are at extremely heightened security,” Mr. Rixon said. “The cathedral is responsible for the conduct of the service, but we have worked very closely with the Military District of Washington.”

Early in the week, a team of family representatives and volunteers — largely composed of members of Mr. Reagan’s staff when he was president — converged on the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, where they have worked to finalize the funeral preparations in a set of makeshift offices off the main lobby.

With phones ringing constantly and former White House aides hustling about, Charles Bakaly, who served as director of press advance during the Reagan presidency, briefly stopped work yesterday afternoon to reflect on his surroundings.

“What we’ve basically done is set up a mini White House office,” he said. “This is technically the office of President Ronald Reagan. … The group that we have here are people who did these things for President Reagan around the world. So we’re doing this again.”

Some of the former staffers who arrived in Washington this week had not seen each other in 20 years. Mr. Bakaly, who flew in from Houston earlier in the week, said that it didn’t take long for the group to click into action.

“We were under these circumstances nonstop under the administration,” he said. “It’s like putting together a basketball team. We all know our positions.”

Today’s ceremony will begin after the closure of events at the Capitol, which has been the focus for a nation in mourning since Mr. Reagan’s casket was delivered there by horse-drawn caisson on Wednesday. Public viewing of Mr. Reagan’s casket inside the Rotunda ends at 7 a.m.

At 1:45 p.m., when the funeral has ended, cathedral bells will ring for 31/2 hours.

After the service, Mr. Reagan’s casket will be taken to Andrews Air Force Base and then flown to Point Mugu Naval Air Station in California. From there, the former president’s remains will travel to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley for a private burial ceremony.

Sean Salai contributed to this report.

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