- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) - The Flag Day reopening of President Ronald Reagan’s hilltop library drew thousands of visitors to the tomb, where the nation’s 40th president was buried over the weekend.

Sunshine bathed the crowd of an estimated 300 people when the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library opened at 10 a.m. From toddlers to seniors, some wore patriotic T-shirts showing the U.S. flag or simply “U.S.A.” Several people carried flower bouquets.

“It’s hard not to have tears. It’s just awesome,” said Ann Bateman of Calabasas, who arrived at 7 a.m. and was first in line. “It’s such an appropriate place for him to be. It is beautiful here. Maybe he’s watching us.”

Johnnie Buhlar, 62, of Clarksville, Tenn., was visiting her daughter in El Segundo and decided, as long as she was close, she should see the grave.

“I remember years ago when he was an actor and he became president, and I was so touched that he and Nancy were so in love,” she said.

Mr. Reagan died at his Los Angeles home June 5 at age 93 from pneumonia, a complication of Alzheimer’s disease.

After his death, the library and museum was closed for ceremonies, though the public was invited to view Mr. Reagan’s casket in the lobby. About 106,000 people filed past the flag-draped casket during a 34-hour tribute June 7-8. Most waited in line for hours.

The mahogany coffin was entombed early Saturday in a garden crypt surrounded by oak trees, just 100 feet from a chunk of the Berlin Wall, which came down two years after Mr. Reagan demanded that the Soviet Union “tear down this wall.”

Next month, on the Fourth of July, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library unveils a new museum exhibit, “Mourning in America,” on last week’s funeral ceremonies and tributes that followed Mr. Reagan’s death.

The exhibit will include photo montages, shell casings from the 21-gun salutes and the bier on which Mr. Reagan’s casket rested. Videos of the five days of funeral events in California and Washington will also be shown.

The library reopened yesterday with extended hours.

Mr. Reagan’s widow, Nancy, and his three surviving children had left the library after a Friday night sunset ceremony.

Workers closed the underground crypt overnight Saturday while a small number of Secret Service agents, library personnel and mortuary representatives watched, said Duke Blackwood, the library’s executive director.

The mahogany casket was sealed within a bronze-lined vault, 7 feet underground inside the crypt, which includes space as Mrs. Reagan’s final resting place. Workers covered the crypt with earth and a concrete pathway.

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