Friday, June 11, 2004
Thursdays with Ronnie:
Let me first start off by saying I hate funerals. I hate most everything about them. I don't really know why. I guess I just don't like being reminded of the fragile nature of mortality - specifically that of my own.
So when funerals come around, I participate in them in the least manner humanly possible.
That being said, you can probably guess my general feeling about viewings and related activities. Never the less, I spent roughly seven hours last night walking back and forth along the National Mall waiting to pay my last respects to the Gipper.
What I witnessed was nothing short of amazing.
I will refer to it as the Great American Line, for that is what it was. Several thousand people, two thousand an hour based on media reports, filed passed the flag draped casket of America's 40th President.
They came from all walks of life and from around the country. In my immediate vicinity there were people from Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Ohio, North and South Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Yes, there were quite a few people in my immediate vicinity.
Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, hispanic, asian, middle eastern. Military, both high ranking officers and enlisted personnel from all branches of the service. All gathered to pay tribute to their fallen leader.
There was no complaining, no scuffles or other disturbances. People waited patiently, and they waited for a very long time. There were as many people waiting when I left in the early morning hours as there were when I arrived on the Mall in the late evening hours.
Now, I'm sure some people came just to be a part of an event that doesn't happen very often in this country. I would submit to you those people were in a very small minority.
Ronald Reagan had a tremendously positive effect on the people and culture of this nation. Anyone who says otherwise did not experience what I did last night. Its not something you can get via television or radio. You had to be there.
Of all the aspects of America affected by Reagan, the most obvious was that on the military. I shared the line last night with active duty and retired military people, dressed in their respective uniforms. Some were in dress attire, while others were in fatigues. Still others wore no uniform at all. Every last one of them came to the head of the casket, snapped a crisp salute, and left. Nothing else was needed.
Reagan always referred to America as a Shining City on a Hill. Last night, the best parts of that city were shown in the Capitol Rotunda.
Here endeth the lesson.