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Thousands of admirers of President Ronald Reagan began passing by his casket at his presidential library today to pay their respect to the former chief executive.
The casket, which is attended to by four military guards, one from each branch of the service, sits in the rotunda of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
Reagan died Saturday after a ten-year battle with Alzheimer’s.
Reagan’s family members attend service.
Earlier today, Regan’s body was transferred from a funeral home in Santa Monica 40 miles to the library. Family members accompanied the motorcade. Upon its arrival in Simi Valley, a military band played “Hail to the Chief,” the traditional song used to signal arrival of a president, as well as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”
After placement of the casket in the rotunda, a brief family service was held, officiated by the Rev. Michael Wenning, retired senior pastor at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, where Reagan had worshipped.
“As we were in procession, I couldn’t help but think of the love and the outpouring that has begun in the nation for a great president, a great world leader and a faithful servent of almighty God,” said Wenning, who read several passages of scripture.
At the end of the brief service, former first lady Nancy Reagan approached the casket, accompanied by daughter Patti Davis and son Ron Reagan. She gently placed her left cheek on the top of the casket. Other family members, including Reagan’s son Michael, also spent time at the casket, touching the flag that wrapped it.
After the family left the library, the public began filing by the casket. A non-stop flow of mourners is expected through tomorrow night, when Reagan’s body will be flown to Washington, D.C., to similarly lie in repose in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. A state funeral will be held at the National Cathedral on Friday, which President Bush has declared a national day of mourning. The former president’s body will be flown back to Simi Valley that afternoon for a sunset burial at the library.
The burial service will include a four-plane flyover, a 21-gun salute and music from military bands and the U.S. Army chorus.
During the trip from Santa Monica to Simi Valley today, well-wishers gathered at freeway overpasses to honor the former president. At one overpass, firefighters had hung a huge American flag high in the air between two ladders of two fire trucks.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, paid their respects at the library, both making the sign of the cross before leaving.
Mrs. Reagan wrote a column for Time magazine about her husband before his death, which ran today.
“I think they broke the mold when they made Ronnie,” she wrote. “He had absolutely no ego, and he was very comfortable in his own skin; therefore, he didn’t feel he ever had to prove anything to anyone.”
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