After Reagan's death his casket was taken from his Bel-Air, Los Angeles, California home to the Gates, Kingsley and Gates Funeral Home in Santa Monica, California. On June 7, it was transported by hearse and displayed at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, then flown to Washington, D.C. on June 9 for a service, public viewing and tributes at the U.S. Capitol Building. After lying in state for thirty-four hours in the Capitol Rotunda, a state funeral service was conducted at the Washington National Cathedral on June 11, the day that President George W. Bush declared a national day of mourning. Later that day, after the service, Reagan's casket was transported back to California for interment at the Reagan Presidential Library.
The state funeral was executed by the Military District of Washington (MDW) and was the first since that of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973. Richard Nixon, who presided over Johnson's funeral, did not have a state funeral.
On the morning of June 5, 2004 there were reports indicating that former President Ronald Reagan's health had significantly deteriorated, following ten years of Alzheimer's disease. According to Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, "At the last moment, when his breathing told us this was it, he opened his eyes and looked straight at my mother. Eyes that hadn't opened for days did, and they weren't chalky or vague. They were clear and blue and full of love. If a death can be lovely, his was." His wife, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, told him that the moment was "the greatest gift you could have given me." President Reagan died of pneumonia at his home at 13:09 PDT (20:09 UTC, or 16:09 EDT). At his side were his wife and two of his children, Ron and Patti. His eldest surviving child, Michael, was with his father the day before.
A hearse transported the body down Sunset Avenue in Los Angeles to the Gates, Kingsley and Gates Funeral Home in Santa Monica. Following his death, Nancy Reagan released a statement through the office of her husband, saying:
My family and I would like the world to know that President Ronald Reagan has passed away after 10 years of Alzheimer's disease at 93 years of age. We appreciate everyone's prayers.
This is a sad hour in the life of America. A great American life has come to an end. I have just spoken to Nancy Reagan. On behalf of our whole nation, Laura and I offered her and the Reagan family our prayers and our condolences. Ronald Reagan won America's respect with his greatness, and won its love with his goodness. He had the confidence that comes with conviction, the strength that comes with character, the grace that comes with humility, and the humor that comes with wisdom. He leaves behind a nation he restored and a world he helped save.
During the years of President Reagan, America laid to rest an era of division and self-doubt. And because of his leadership, the world laid to rest an era of fear and tyranny. Now, in laying our leader to rest, we say thank you. He always told us that for America, the best was yet to come. We comfort ourselves in the knowledge that this is true for him, too. His work is done, and now a shining city awaits him. May God bless Ronald Reagan.
American flags at the White House, across the United States, and around the world over official U.S. installations and operating locations, were ordered flown at half-staff for 30 days in a presidential proclamation by President Bush. In the announcement of Reagan's death, Bush also declared June 11 a National Day of Mourning.
Some of the early Ronald Reagan#Quotes about Reagan included those of Queen Elizabeth II, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, and French President Jacques Chirac. Martin advised Governor General Adrienne Clarkson to order all flags across Canada and at all Canadian diplomatic missions in the United States flown to half-staff on the 11th as well, in sympathy with the U.S.'s National Day of Mourning.
People marked Reagan's death by leaving tributes and condolences at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas, as well as at locales around the country significant to Reagan's life, including his presidential library, his birthplace in Tampico, Illinois, the funeral home where his body was taken after he died, and the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity house in Eureka, Illinois.
Reagan's casket, a Marsellus Masterpiece model, was carried by a military honor guard representing all branches of the United States Armed Forces into the lobby of the library to lie in repose. There, a brief family service was conducted by the Rev. Dr. Michael H. Wenning, former pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church, where Reagan worshipped. When the prayer service concluded, Nancy Reagan and her family approached the casket, where Mrs. Reagan laid her head on it. After the family left, the doors of the presidential library opened, and the public began filing in at a rate of 2,000 an hour throughout the night. In all, about 108,000 people visited the presidential library to see the casket.
Events in the capital began when Reagan's casket arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. It was removed from the plane, driven by hearse in a procession through the Maryland and Virginia suburbs and the nation's capital, across the Memorial Bridge, and onto Constitution Avenue.
Just before the plane arrived at Andrews, the Capitol building was evacuated for a brief period, for a plane carrying Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher was off course and created a scare by entering restricted airspace; the incident was attributed to radio problems onboard the plane and did not affect funeral events.
Near the Ellipse, and within sight of the White House, the hearse halted and Reagan's body was transferred to a horse-drawn caisson for the procession down Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill. Nancy Reagan stepped out of her limousine to witness the body's transfer; she was met with a warm greeting, including applause. The cortege began the 45 minute journey just after 6:00 PM EST, with the Reagan family following in limousines. Military units escorted the caisson as it made its way to the sounds of muffled drums. Behind the caisson was a riderless horse named Sergeant York, carrying Reagan's riding boots reversed in the stirrups. The caisson paused at 4th street and Constitution Avenue, where 21 Air Force F-15s flew over in missing man formation.
The caisson stopped when it arrived at Capitol Hill; military units removed it, and Hail to the Chief was played amidst a 21-gun salute. The casket was carried up the west front steps of the Capitol, mainly because Reagan was first inaugurated there and he wanted to face west, toward California. Two teams of military body bearers carried the coffin up the steps of the Capitol to Battle Hymn of the Republic.
When the casket reached the top of the steps, Nancy Reagan and her military escort met it. As the casket passed them, Mrs. Reagan momentarily pulled away from her escort, reached out, and touched the casket. They followed it inside to the rotunda.
The casket was placed under the rotunda, where it lay in state on Abraham Lincoln's catafalque. An evening memorial service then took place, with dignitaries primarily composed of Congressional members, members of the United States Supreme Court, and the diplomatic corps; the Reverend Daniel Coughlin, Chaplain of the House of Representatives, gave the invocation. Eulogies were then delivered by Senate President pro tempore Ted Stevens, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Vice President Dick Cheney.
After the eulogies, the three speakers each laid a wreath at the casket, and Senate Chaplain, the Reverend Barry Black, gave the benediction. Cheney escorted Mrs. Reagan to the casket, where she said her goodbyes. The dignitaries in the room paid their respects during the next half hour. In a rare instance, the doors of the Capitol were then opened to the public, who stood in lines stretching many blocks to view the casket.
After returning to Washington following the G-8 Summit, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush visited the rotunda to pay their respects. Many world leaders did the same, including interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former Polish president Lech Wałęsa, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
While Reagan's casket lay in state, Nancy Reagan and her family took up temporary residence in Blair House, the official residence of guests of the President of the United States. There, she was greeted by additional dignitaries and public figures. During a visit from Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister wrote in the Blair House condolence book, "To Ronnie, Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
After thirty-four hours of lying in state, the doors of the Capitol were closed to the public and Nancy Reagan was escorted in, where she had a moment alone with the casket. A military honor guard entered and carried it down the west steps of the Capitol to a 21-gun salute where Mrs. Reagan, holding her hand over her heart, met it. After it was placed in a hearse, the motorcade departed on the five mile-trip to the Washington National Cathedral, where the state funeral service was to be held; crowds lined the route of the cortege as the hearse made its way.
About 4,000 people gathered at the cathedral for the service, including President and Mrs. Bush, former president George H. W. and Barbara Bush, Gerald and Betty Ford, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, and Bill and Hillary Clinton. Members of Congress and past and present governors were also present.
Foreign dignitaries attended as well, coming from 165 nations. The dignitaries included 36 past and present heads of state and government, and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Leading the dignitaries were Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, Brian and Mila Mulroney, and Prince Charles (representing Queen Elizabeth II and the United Kingdom). Other world leaders included U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Jordan's King Abdullah, as well as interim presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Ghazi al-Yawer of Iraq. Blair, Schröder, Berlusconi, Karzai, King Abdullah, and al-Yawer had been at the G-8 Summit in Sea Island, Georgia, and later decided to extend their stay in the U.S. to attend the funeral. For Karzai, the funeral was part of his week-long visit to the U.S. and it was the beginning of his visit to Washington. He scrapped a visit to the West Coast to visit the Afghan community there to attend the funeral.
Both Bush and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry did not campaign, nor run campaign ads for president to mark the funeral. They would do this once more during the campaign: exactly three months later, on September 11, to mark the anniversary of the tragic events of that day in 2001.
The motorcade arrived at the Cathedral and Reagan's casket was removed. The bearers carrying it paused on the Cathedral steps, and an opening prayer was given by Bishop John Bryson Chane, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral. The procession began and the casket was carried down the aisle; the Reagan family followed and Mrs. Reagan was escorted to her seat by President Bush. Rabbi Harold Kushner and Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (the first female Supreme Court justice, whom Reagan appointed), each then gave a reading, which preceded the eulogies. The choir then sang hymns—"Faire is the Heaven"; "Bring Us, O Lord"; "And I saw a New Heaven"—and then former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher delivered the first eulogy. In view of her failing mental faculties following several small strokes, the message had been pre-recorded several months earlier and was broadcast throughout the Cathedral via plasma television screens. During the speech, Thatcher said, "We have lost a great president, a great American and a great man, and I have lost a dear friend."
Following Lady Thatcher's eulogy, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney delivered one. Mulroney ended with, "In the presence of his beloved and indispensable Nancy, his children, his family, his friends and all of the American people that he so deeply revered, I say au revoir today to a gifted leader and historic president and a gracious human being."
Former President George H. W. Bush then spoke; Bush had been Reagan's Vice President from 1981 to 1989. His son, President George W. Bush, was the last to give a eulogy, saying in part, "Ronald Reagan belongs to the ages now, but we preferred it when he belonged to us... In his last years he saw through a glass darkly. Now he sees his savior face to face. And we look for that fine day when we will see him again, all weariness gone, clear of mind, strong and sure and smiling again, and the sorrow of this parting gone forever. "
The choir then partook in singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, delivered a Bible reading from the Gospel of Matthew. The service officiant, former Missouri Senator the Reverend John C. Danforth, delivered the homily, Irish tenor Dr. Ronan Tynan sang songs such as "Ave Maria" and "Amazing Grace" at the request of Nancy Reagan. The Reverend Ted Eastman, former Bishop of Maryland, delivered the benediction, flanked by Reverend Danforth and Reverend Chane.
About five hours after the aircraft departed Andrews, it touched down at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California. The public, including sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan, was there to witness the plane's arrival. Reagan's body was driven in a large motorcade on one final trip though the streets of southern California. As they had done throughout the week, crowds gathered along the motorcade route on its journey to Reagan's burial place, his presidential library in Simi Valley.
Eulogies finished, and the service over, the Air Force Band of the Golden West played four "ruffles and flourishes," and the U.S. Army Chorus sang The Star-Spangled Banner. Bagpiper Eric Rigler played "Amazing Grace" as the casket was moved to its grave site and placed on a plinth. There, burial rites were given, followed by a last 21-gun salute; members of the armed services fired three volleys and a bugler played Taps. At that time, Four Navy F/A-18 fighter jets flew over in missing man formation, and the flag that flew over the Capitol during President Reagan's 1981 inauguration was folded and presented to Nancy Reagan by Captain James Symonds, the commanding officer of the USS Ronald Reagan.
After Nancy Reagan accepted the flag, she approached the casket and spent several minutes patting and stroking it. She laid her head down on the casket, before breaking down and crying; The Washington Post described Mrs. Reagan as having been "stoic through nearly a week of somber rituals" but she "surrendered to her grief after being handed the flag that had covered her husband's coffin." While she cried, she kissed the casket and said "I love you". Her children surrounded her, and attempted to console her. Mrs. Reagan then walked away with her military escort, clutching the folded flag. The military band began to play, as the Reagan children said their goodbyes. Funeral attendees had an opportunity to file past the coffin.
The casket was lowered into the tomb at approximately 3:00 AM PST; the exterior of the horseshoe shaped monument is inscribed with a quote Ronald Reagan delivered in 1991:
I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.
Right before the funeral, Attorney General John Ashcroft told a Senate hearing:
It is a sad commentary when the observation of a memorial service for a former president of the United States must be labeled a national security special event. Such is the fact of modern life in Washington and such is the nature of the war against al Qaeda.
MPDC Chief Charles Ramsey agreed with Ashcroft and said at a press conference about how the MPDC was dealing with the funeral: "In a post 9/11 world we have to be very concerned about that and aware of the potential for something to happen, not that we've received any information at all."
However, DHS was handling another NSSE at the same time: the G-8 Summit in Sea Island, Georgia.
The majority of media coverage of the event was deferential. Most major news organizations broadcast the various events live multiple times; during the week, the cable channel C-SPAN broadcasted uninterrupted coverage of the funeral ceremonies. A few complained, however, that the television coverage was excessive and preempted coverage of other events. CBS News anchor Dan Rather was quoted as saying: "Even though everybody is respectful and wants to pay homage to the president, life does go on. There is other news, like the reality of Iraq. It got very short shrift this weekend.
Reagan's obituaries also included a few criticisms. Richard Goldstein of The Village Voice criticized the funeral for its careful orchestration, writing, "Because the networks had so long to plan for this production... this was the most precisely mounted news event in modern times. Each gesture was minutely choreographed, every tear strategically placed.
Additionally, some media outlets were criticized for lionizing Reagan without paying equal attention to more controversial decisions made during his administration. Thomas Kunkel, dean of the University of Maryland, College Park's journalism college, wrote in American Journalism Review magazine that the coverage "would have you believe that Reagan was a cross between Abe Lincoln and Mother Teresa, with an overlay of Mister Rogers. Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post's media columnist, said Reagan was "a far more controversial figure in his time than the largely gushing obits on television would suggest. The Nation ran a series of articles about the many controversies of his presidency.
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