Ronald Reagan returned to the nation’s Capitol Wednesday for a solemn ceremony in which Congress and others bid their farewell to the Chief.
“Fellow Americans, here lies a graceful and gallant man,” Vice President Dick Cheney said at the state funeral held in the Capitol Rotunda while surrounded by Supreme Court justices, Cabinet members, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others. “In this national vigil of mourning, we show how much America loved this good man.”
The casket carrying the 40th President was brought to the Capitol in a procession of 19th-century pomp and circumstance.
Thousands of onlookers, enduring oppressively high temperatures, watched as a century-old caisson (which had also been used for the funerals of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson) carried Reagan along Constitution Avenue accompanied by the sound of drums.
Dress-uniformed members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard line the avenue. Overhead, 21 F-15 jets whizzed by in tribute and an Army band played “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Nancy Reagan, looking frail and drawn, rode along the route in a limousine with her adult children. The former First Lady, 82, reportedly rejected any helicopter TV coverage of the motorcade.
Pallbearers carried the 450-lb. mahogany coffin inside the Rotunda. Cheney placed a wreath and then escorted Mrs. Reagan to the casket. She whispered something to the box holding her husband, then straightened out the flag adorning it.
President Bush, who has been at a G8 Summit in Georgia, is due back in Washington on Thursday, at which time he and Laura Bush are scheduled to pay their respects to the Reagan family. President Bush will deliver the eulogy at tomorrow’s funeral.