Public gets a chance to pay respects to President Ronald Reagan
With the body of President Ronald Regan lying in repose in California, a steady stream of mourners paid their final respects to the late leader. Thousands of people circled around the president's casket, which was sitting inside the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. It was the first in a week's worth of public tributes in honor of the nation's 40th president.
Before the public was allowed into the library, a small service was held for the Reagan's family and closest friends. After a short prayer session, Nancy Regan touched her cheek against her husband's flag-draped casket. The family traveled with the casket from a funeral home in Santa Monica. During the 40-mile drive, people watched from overpasses, cars stopped in their paths, and signs reading "God bless the Gipper" hung along the route.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was among the first to pay tribute to Reagan. All mourners had to travel through extensive security and be bused to the library from a staging area. The library anticipated 2,000 visitors an hour and will remain open around the clock through Tuesday evening.
Reagan's body will then be flown to Washington where there will be a formal funeral procession Wednesday evening from Andrews Air Force Base to the U.S. Capitol. The president's body will then lie in state in the Capitol rotunda until Friday morning. Officials expect hundreds of thousands of mourners to come to D.C. to pay their respects. President Bush has declared Friday a national day of mourning. He plans to deliver the eulogy at Reagan's funeral, which is set for 11:30 Friday morning at Washington National Cathedral. After the funeral, Reagan's body will be flown back to California for sunset burial at the Reagan library.
President Reagan died Saturday at 93 after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's