- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2004

BALTIMORE — The burly firefighter sitting at the bar in the Ropewalk Tavern, where a 6-foot-tall bronze statue of Ronald Reagan stands nearby, choked back tears as he spoke on Sunday of the former president’s death.

“I’m terribly grieved,” Thomas Skinner said. “I’ll have to find a way to D.C. this week.”

The 39-year-old Mr. Skinner is one of thousands of Reagan mourners — from world leaders to ordinary citizens — expected to make the pilgrimage to Washington to pay their respects to the former president, who will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol tomorrow through Friday.

Funeral services at Washington National Cathedral on Friday are closed to the general public, but there will be two opportunities for mourners such as Mr. Skinner to participate in the official proceedings, the country’s first state funeral in 31 years.

The general public can watch the funeral procession along Constitution Avenue from the White House to the Capitol tomorrow evening at 6. Mourners then can view the casket in the Capitol Rotunda for 37 hours, from 8:30 p.m. tomorrow until 9:30 a.m. Friday, according to the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, which is responsible for the funeral proceedings.

Services at the Washington National Cathedral are set for 11:30 a.m. Friday. President Reagan’s casket will be flown back to Simi Valley, Calif., Friday afternoon for a sunset burial at the presidential library overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Law-enforcement officials recommend that visitors coming downtown for the Reagan funeral use the Metro system, and Capitol Police said those interested in viewing the casket should expect long lines during the day, shorter lines late at night and early in the morning.

“During the course of the night, there’s probably going to be less people than during the day,” said Officer Michael Lauer, Capitol Police spokesman.

Capitol Police also said visitors cannot bring bags, cameras or flowers into the Rotunda.

Security is a major concern for Capitol Police, with as many as 100,000 people expected to view the casket, according to Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer. Terrorism threats already are of paramount concern to national law-enforcement officials, especially because U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced last month that al Qaeda was planning an attack this summer.

With so many mourners expected to come through the Capitol in such a short period of time, Capitol Police are advising that the less visitors bring with them, the quicker they will go through the metal detectors.

“They don’t let them linger too long, because they’ll have so many people,” said Betty Koed, assistant Senate historian. “In this case, they’re going to have security issues that they’ve never had before, so I imagine they’ll keep it moving pretty quickly.”

Mr. Reagan will be the 10th U.S. president to lie in state. The United States has not had a state funeral since 1973, when President Lyndon Baines Johnson was laid to rest. Ten years prior to that, Washington was the epicenter of national grief when 80,000 watched President Kennedy’s casket roll through the city’s streets.

After Mr. Reagan’s flag-draped casket arrives at Andrews Air Force Base tomorrow at 5 p.m., it will be driven in a funeral procession to the 1600 block of Constitution Avenue NW, where it will be transferred to a horse-drawn caisson. The caisson, escorted by the Military District of Washington’s Old Guard Caisson Platoon, of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, will travel southeast on Constitution Avenue to the Capitol.

The caisson includes six horses of the same color, three riders and a section chief on a separate horse.

A riderless horse with empty boots reversed in the stirrups will follow the caisson, to “symbolize that the warrior will never ride again,” according to the Military District of Washington (MDW).

The MDW’s commanding general, Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman, will accompany the Reagan family. A 21-gunship flyover will take place as the caisson crosses 4th Street.

Mr. Reagan will be only the fourth president whose procession travels on Constitution Avenue. Six presidents have been carried down Pennsylvania Avenue.

After a state funeral ceremony in the Rotunda, which will be closed briefly to the public, Mr. Reagan’s closed casket will lie in state in the Rotunda under an honor guard composed of four service members, one from each major branch of the military.

Since its completion in 1824, the Rotunda has been considered the most suitable place for the nation to honor its most eminent citizens when they die.

Mourners will enter the Capitol through the West Front entrance, and the line will snake out onto 3rd Street. The weather is forecast to be sunny and hot tomorrow, a temperature higher than 90 degrees and scattered thunderstorms on Thursday, and highs at about 80 degrees on Friday.

Inside the Rotunda, the casket will be placed on a simple bier of rough pine boards nailed together and covered with black cloth, called a catafalque, which was constructed in 1865 for President Lincoln’s casket after he was assassinated. The catafalque has been used in the Rotunda 25 times, five times in the Supreme Court for justices who laid in state and once in the Department of Commerce Building for the laying in state of Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown.

The federal government will be closed on Friday, and D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday he is considering closing city government and schools that day. Maryland and Virginia governments in the Washington area said they will be open Friday.

At the Ropewalk Tavern, a South Baltimore establishment that long has celebrated the accomplishments and legacy of the former president, patrons joined Mr. Skinner in toasting a man many called their hero.

“He will be missed,” said Mike Mammes, a 25-year-old salesman in a Chicago Cubs cap. “It’s a little tough just seeing the man who defined our existence for the last 20 years … who had his convictions and stuck with them. It’s a little tough seeing an icon pass away.”

Matthew Cella contributed to this report.

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