Have any other Dopers gone (or plan to go) to the Ronald Reagan viewing?

I went this morning. It was only about a 3.5 hour wait in line.

Everybody was quite subdued and respectful, well before the Rotunda, where silence was strictly enforced. Conversations were very low. People were very polite. It was remarkable to see, especially in Washington, which can be a loud, rude city at times.

There was a little bit of a delay when somebody abandoned a backpack, and a hazardous-materials squad had to be called out to check the thing out. It turned out to be nothing, and then the owner showed up. Who doesn’t know that this is a no-no, in this day and age? Twenty minute delay.

The crowd was a typical middle American bunch. They had, for the most part, dressed for the warm weather, although most people seemed to have tried to dress nicely. I’m somewhat old fashioned in this regard, so I was wearing a suit, as were lots of other men. Lots of women were in dresses appropriate for a funeral as well.

Some folks stood out from the crowd. There were a lot of servicemen and women in full uniform present. I also saw a large, uniformed Boy Scout troop. I saw four nuns in full habits, a group of about twenty Amish or Old Order Mennonite, and an American Indian in full ceremonial headdress.

A lot of parents brought their kids, many in strollers. Amazingly, none of the kids within earshot were complaining loudly.

Inside the Rotunda, it’s pretty much as it appears on TV. The flag draped casket is flanked by an honor guard that doesn’t move a muscle. They represent all four beanches of the service, and I noticed that the sailor was a young woman, nonrated E-3 (I used to be a sailor myself). The drill rifles were all model 1903 Springfields, very shiny.

All visitors received a card on departing. This may be how they’re keeping an accurate count of visitors. The card is a lovely printed thing with an American eagle seal at the top, representing the Presidential seal.

       The Honorable
   Ronald Wilson Reagan

February 6, 1911 - June 5, 2004
Fortieth President
of the
United States of America

In Final Tribute from a Grateful Nation
The Lying in State of President Reagan
The Rotunda, United States Capitol
Washington, DC
June 9, 10, and 11, 2004

Afterward visitors could sign, if they chose, condolence books. These will be given to Mrs. Reagan afterward and put on display at the library.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us who won’t be able to attend. I heard on the news that an American Indian from Minnesota was there in full traditional dress as you described … I wonder if this could have been him. I was happy to hear that my home state was represented in such an amazing way.

Thanks for sharing, Mr. Moto. I wish I could have gone.

Why, precisely, would I wanna stand in line for more than three hours to look at a shiny box with some Marines standing around it?

Even if I liked the dead guy that they say is actually inside the box?

Not my idea of a worthwhile experience.

Thanks, Mr. Moto. I too would like to have been there and appreciate you providing those of us who care with some sense of the event.

Thank you, indeed. I posted a thread in IMHO asking if any Dopers had ever been to a State Funeral. So far it’s been viewed only 3 times in about 90 minutes :(. This thread makes me anxious to see what responses (if any) come into my thread, as well as future responses to this one.

Wow, I might have seen you, Mr. Moto! (On C-Span) I saw the nuns.

Reagan came to office when I was 4 years old, and held that office until I was 12. An age that spans the time when I knew nothing to the time, as a pre-teen, when I thought I knew everything. He was the only president I remembered, and I can still think back and recall how odd it seemed to me that someone else was going to be living in his ‘house’ when he was done being president. I was too young to understand the political games. All I knew was that he seemed like a good ‘grampa’ type guy who kept jelly beans in a jar on his desk and liked to ride horses.

I wish I could personally pay my respects, as Mr. Moto has done. I don’t care to read the threads that debate what kind of a president he was. I will remember him as I did as a child, when being the president was equal to being a King.

We were in the car on the way to DC this morning when we had to turn back thanks to a very sick kiddo. I suggested that my husband go ahead and go down on his own, but he decided just to take time from work tomorrow to watch the coverage of the ceremonies.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Mr. Moto.

You wouldn’t have given me a second glance. I’m quite unremarkable looking.

Except to Mrs. Moto, of course, who unexplicably finds me adorable.

Master Wang-Ka, nobody forced anybody in that line to be there, except maybe the kids. Yet, for whatever personal reason, hundreds of thousands of people chose to show their respects in this way. Some travelled a good distance to do so.

I can understand if it’s something you don’t want to do, but surely you can see why some people would choose to do this. I’ve met some people who did the same thing when Kennedy was shot. Would you bust their chops too?

I went. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the nice card or to sign my respects, but I got a good story in exchange.

Upon walking up the stairs to the Rotunda, there were two lines- one on the left side of the stairs, and one on the right. There was a break in the left line, and the security guards told us to start filling in the left-hand line.

It turned out that the left-hand line was the one for Congressional Staffers who wanted to pay respects. This didn’t matter much, unless one was also in the left hand line, assumed that the group ahead of him were also tourists making their way out, and found themselves stuck somewhere in a small corridor with no idea of how to get out without causing far more of a security fuss than was really necessary. Luckily, one of Elizabeth Dole’s staff- a lawyer by the name of Scott Quesenberg, who was kind and gregarious, gave me and my friends a small tour of the place and took us into the basement to ride the subway over to the Senate Building, and escorted us to the exit. Along the way, I got to see enough paintings and busts and assorted Americana that just plain flummoxed me. As a student of history, I just want to go back on my own and spend hours there admiring it. I also got to actually see Bob Dole from less than fifteen feet away, which also added to the flummoxing quality of the whole thing.

An awesome experience, both the Rotunda and afterwards, and I use that in the basic meaning of the word, not the surfer-dudism.

(I also tried to dress for the occasion, though I didn’t wear a suit jacket- that just seemed too dangerous given the weather.)

It would have been very dangerous. I was in shirtsleeves until I got to the Capitol steps.

Gentlemen, a few questions, please.

Were either of you present for the guard changes? Discuss that if you would.

Watching last night on C-SPAN, I was amazed at the number of cell phones going off. Did security request that phones be turned off or at least set to vibrate? What happened to those people, if anything? What sort of security procedures did you endure?

Children that I saw, aside from one or two who were fascinated by the acoustics of the rotunda, were fairly well behaved. Having seen them in person, do you think this was because of waiting in line for 3+ hours, because of the solemnity of the occasion, or that parents of (shall we say) restless children did not dare bring them?

[nitpick] Actually the Capitol Police chief stated this morning that the estimate of the number of visitors as of 5:00 this morning was 84,000… which is still a goodly number.

In numbers nitpicking, I had seen a figure of 200,000. I think they may have been adding the Washington and California numbers together.

Well over 100,000 people stood in long lines for the California viewing.

I can’t speak to a guard change, except for what I’ve seen on TV. I wasn’t there for one in person.

We were instructed to turn off cell phones, and all bags were searched. All visitors passed through metal detectors. I also recounted, above, what happened when somebody left a bag unattended. Nobody’s cell phone rang while I was in the Rotunda, and I can’t imagine anybody getting dressed down for it.

Children were very well behaved in line and in the Rotunda, from what I saw. We chose not to bring our own kids, 18-month old twins, because they probably couldn’t have handled it. My wife didn’t come, either, though she would have liked to. She’s pregnant right now, and didn’t want to stand so long.

Parents were doing a good job, though, of explaining why the kids should be quiet and respectful. It was actually quite remarkable to see.

I couldn’t go, as I live on the wrong side of the country.

However, in my home city (Sacramento), they have a memorial book, to which you can sign your name.

Yesterday, I made two entrys in said book:

One was of my own name.

The other was that of a step-relative, Jim Jenkins, who had served as California’s Washington lobbyist and as health and human services secretary when Reagan was Governor, and as Ed Meese’s top aide during the first term of Reagan’s Presidency. He died a couple of years back.