Skip to comments.Viewing the Caisson, Bidding Farewell ...
Posted on 06/10/2004 8:56:31 AM PDT by joanie-f
Yesterday morning I traveled to Washington with my husband, two sisters, a niece, and a friend of our nieces (two high school girls). We parked in Silver Spring, MD, and took the Metro into DC.
At around four oclock, we stationed ourselves at 1600 Constitution Avenue, where the transfer of the Presidents casket to the horse-drawn caisson was scheduled to take place at six oclock. It was a hot, oppressive day (about ninety-two humid degrees), but there was an occasional warm breeze.
Various color guards stood at attention. The caisson, and the riderless horse, with Reagans own boots positioned facing the rear in its stirrups, were being attended to watered, wiped down. The horses were magnificent a very dark brown, bordering on black, muscular, and strong. They stood silently, and practically motionless, in the heat -- almost as if they somehow comprehended the importance of the assignment that lay ahead.
The crowd (approximately fifteen-deep), although very large, was relatively silent as well, and deeply respectful throughout the transfer, especially when Nancy Reagan emerged from her limousine. Someone began to quietly applaud her. Others were hesitant to join in, not knowing whether it was appropriate, and then allowing ourselves the freedom to tell her how much we love her. She was visibly moved by the dignified applause. One person in our vicinity called out, God bless you, Nancy -- by unspoken agreement speaking for us all.
The transfer from the hearse to the caisson was accomplished amid relative quiet, with the exception of cameras clicking, and an occasional whisper.
We remained at 1600 Constitution Avenue until the caisson had departed for the Capitol, and then walked along Constitution Avenue to the Capitol, watching the spectacular twenty-one-plane flyover en-route.
Because of the crowds, we were not able to reach the Capitol in time to witness the off-loading of the casket, or the twenty-one gun salute. But we heard the Howitzers offer their booming tribute from further on down Constitution Avenue. It was breathtaking.
Upon arriving at the Capitol, we found row upon row of barricades/cattle shoots that had been erected to accommodate the tens of thousands of people that were expected to be in line during the day and night. They wove back and forth the length of the lawn in front of the Capitol six times, before allowing the line to proceed up the winding sidewalk to the west entrance. We were in line there for approximately four and a half hours (from 7:00 PM until around 11:30 PM, when we finally entered the Rotunda).
We met dozens of interesting people while waiting in line, representing (what my Dad would have called) middle America/flyover country. Just a small handful of the most memorable:
(1) A black grandmother from Brooklyn, NY who had traveled alone, via Amtrak, to DC. She works as a nurse and has had decades of experience treating Alzheimers patients she marveled that President Reagans surviving ten years afflicted with Alzheimers was testimony to his strong constitution and his will to live. Standing in line for more than four hours, she was going to miss the ten oclock train back to Brooklyn, and then would have to wait until 3 AM for the next one. She said, Thats okay. I will find somewhere to lie down. And I will lie down happy, because I paid my respects to my President.
(2) A Pentagon employee who had been in the Army for seven years, and who was at the Pentagon on 9/11 (had a very long conversation about that, which could merit as essay of its own).
(3) A young Naval officer, in his dress whites, who joined us toward the end of our wait in line. He was a proud, and yet modest, commander of a Naval Reserve unit in West Virginia.
(4) Several tourists (from Utah, New Mexico, Idaho, and Florida) who were visiting the area, and who extended, or re-routed, their vacation plans to include paying their respects to the President.
(5) Two young men who are White House interns college students working on the Presidential speech writing staff (involved in research, as opposed to actual word-writing). These young men were a breath of fresh air, with a deep knowledge of our nations history and its current place in the world.
We had many wonderful conversations with others waiting in line during our four and a half hour walk to the Rotunda on every subject from the greatness of the man to whom we were about to pay our respects (this subject dominated all conversations), to the founding of our republic, the war in Iraq, the recent Toomey/Specter primary election in Pennsylvania, the general political climate in our respective areas, thoughts on the upcoming election ... There was a beautiful camaraderie among those waiting in the long lines. We felt as if we were actually among people who get it people who are willing and able to look beyond the biased media headlines and ferret out the truth on their own. I have not enjoyed so much uplifting, kindred spirit, meaningful political conversations in recent memory.
And, despite the physical closeness, the heat, and the security concerns, the crowd was also permeated with a decency and honesty that made one feel at home and completely relaxed.
We were made to traverse three different check-points along the route from the lawn in front of the Capitol up the long hill to the west entrance. At each one of the checkpoints, purses and small bags were thoroughly checked, and at the final check-point, we underwent the most rigorous scrutiny, including passing through one in a very long row of metal detectors. We were not permitted to bring full-sized backpacks, cameras, electronic equipment, cell phones with cameras, any liquids (including water), lotions, hand creams, aerosol cans, etc. beyond the door of the Capitol. Many of us were carrying backpacks, and many of us decided to put into our pocketes as many of the valuables that had been in our packs, and simply leave the half-filled backpacks in an enormous pile, which was transported by security to a completely unguarded area at the base of the Capitol steps. We embraced the philosophy, If its there when I return, so be it. If not, I will consider it a small material loss. As far as I am aware, every backpack that sat in that pile during our trek up to the entrance, through the viewing, and back down those hundred steps, was still there waiting to be claimed by its owner.
Other than in that pile, one dared not leave his backpack unattended. If that happened, a security person would invariably ask, Is that (nearby) backpack yours? We were asked, more than once, to immediately report to police (who were everywhere) the sighting of any unattended packs.
Tens of thousands of bottles of spring water were provided (free) for those waiting in line. The cases of bottled water were stacked five feet high and ran hundreds of feet all along the route. Men came around every half hour or so distributing it to anyone who requested it. Most of the people in line also brought their own food, and the sharing of that food was a common occurrence. Enjoyed some delicious Florida fruit and home-baked cookies from the Midwest (among other things) in trade for some Pennsylvania Dutch apples, cookies and apple juice. :)
During the day, at various positions along the route from Silver Spring to the Capitol and back, we rubbed elbows with representatives of the Washington Metro system, members of the Park Police, the Capitol Police, and countless security personnel. At every turn, when we were in need of anything (directions, advice, etc.), to a person they could not have been more courteous (even kind) and helpful sometimes even going out of their way to accommodate us, and expressing appreciation for the fact that the wait was so long, and the checkpoints were cumbersome and inconvenient.
Below are some photos taken along the route from 1600 Constitution Avenue to the Capitol. During our walk up to the Capitol, the F-15 (I believe that was what they were by sight, but am not completely certain) fly-over occurred. There was a lead plane, followed by five formations of four planes each. It was breathtaking, especially watching the final plane in the final formation breaking from its group and climbing so high in the sky that it virtually became a speck in the blue, signifying our fallen, beloved hero.
I had to give up my camera at the second security check-point so could not take photos after that:
Walking up the many indoor Capitol steps to the magnificent Rotunda was breathtaking. There were probably fifty people in our small group by then and we were enveloped in complete silence. After having waited in line for almost five hours, we all somehow knew that the moment for which we had waited was going to take our breath away and leave us speechless. And, even before entering that solemn room, our desire to converse (that had been strong and uplifting all day) left us. The silence was palpable, and somehow a source of common comfort.
In spite of the fact that the Capitol Rotunda is a magnificent room, I believe that very few entering through that door noticed the room at all. Our eyes immediately fell on five military, one from each branch, standing at proud attention around a flag-draped casket. There were three beautiful large, red, white and blue floral wreaths at the head and two sides. We were not at all rushed, but instead allowed to stop and remain as long as we liked (I have since seen other images from inside the Rotunda this morning, and it appears that, in order to move people through more efficiently, they are being asked not to linger).
There was a quiet reverence in that room that I have never before experienced. All eyes were drawn to the casket in which lay the man to whom we all wanted to offer our own personal, heartfelt farewell. I welled up with tears as soon as I entered, and felt as if my heart were going to burst with an inexplicable combination of love and grief
and I was not alone. The only sound in the room was the quiet shuffle of feet that knew they had to move along, and yet wanted to linger just a moment more
and the soft inhaling that attempts to hold back tears that will not be denied.
I believe this excerpt from The Federalist expresses up our feelings much better than I:
Somehow just knowing that President Reagan was still sharing the same air we breathe was a comfort, but we are greatly relieved that his suffering, and that of his dear wife Nancy, who watched him languish over the last decade, is over. Though he is now in the company of Patriots in the most shining city of all, his spirit and legacy in this life are eternal well done, thou good and faithful servant.
I am attaching below a piece I wrote on another thread last week, for those who may not have read it, and who might want to do so now. I (and many of you, I know) am finding it difficult to say good bye.
I adore you, Ronald Reagan. When I proudly shook your hand during one of your local campaign stops just a month before your first election to the Presidency, and you looked me warmly in the eye, I felt as if I were shaking the hand of one of the greatest men in the entire history of mankind. During the eight years that followed, you proved me right.
How far we've fallen as a nation/society since you bid farewell to the White House a mere sixteen years ago.
During the Reagan Era, many of the nations of the world were facing serious economic and political upheaval, and some of the peoples of those nations were turning, in desperation, to leaders whose aims and credentials were less than stellar. But America was an exception to that rule: In you, the American people saw the potential for stability -- and not merely stability at any cost, but stability obtained through reasonable measures, which were based on choosing right over wrong, and long-term success over temporary comfort. In short, despite the sense of panic which seemed to permeate our national psyche, we didn't opt for quick fixes, or empty promises. Instead we placed our hope for the future in the hands of a man who exuded virtue in leadership.
In the forward to your book, Speaking My Mind, you wrote, I don't believe my speeches took me as far as they did merely because of my rhetoric or delivery, but because there were certain basic truths in them that the average American citizen recognized ... what I said simply made sense to the guy on the street, and it's the guy on the street who elects presidents of the United States.
Unfortunately, Mr. Reagan, it appears that, given sixteen intervening years, the priorities of the average American guy on the street have changed to the point where your concerns, and your well-reasoned and well-intentioned methods of addressing those concerns, are no longer held in the same esteem as they once were. And America is paying a dear -- perhaps deadly -- price for that shift in national priorities.
Many current polls show President Bush and John Kerry in a virtual dead heat for the Presidency. That alone is evidence enough of how terribly far we have strayed off of the path you laid out for us.
I believe that there are three major essential areas of effective leadership which you possessed in almost super-human abundance: (1) patience; (2) willingness to accept responsibility; and (3) placing value on virtue/goodness.
You never promised us a quick fix for the ailments that troubled us. On the contrary, you often warned us that we would have to bite the bullet, and stay the course -- at the same time, assuring us that the rewards would be well worth the sacrifices. We understood you, and followed your lead -- ready to make any sacrifices you asked of us, because we sincerely believed that you had our best interests at heart, and that, despite the inevitable bumps we might encounter, America would be better off at the end of that road you were so painstakingly mapping for us.
Many of our current leaders (and would-be leaders especially those in the legislature and judiciary, and those of a leftist bent) are cut from different cloth. They choose to identify a national crisis on a weekly basis, make a radio or campaign speech addressing said crisis, promise to throw a specified/unspecified (depending on which way the political wind is blowing) amount of taxpayer dollars at the crisis, and then move on to their next matter of business, which is usually inventing next week's crisis (and the required dollar amount which will be required to remedy it).
They are cut from different cloth indeed. Flimsy, gauzy, see-through stuff.
Trouble is, the mentality of America 2004 seems to have shifted from visionary to short-sighted. We no longer seem terribly concerned with the future in which our children will find themselves living. Of more importance seems to be the present, and its comforts, in which we survive from day to day. We seem to prize those quick fixes that you warned us against embracing, and (with the exception of our courageous forces in Iraq) we turn away from solutions which require sacrifice, long-term commitment, and involvement. We are listening to the clarion call, pounded home loudly and incessantly in the media, that, because we have been involved in the war in Iraq for more than a year, we are floundering in a quagmire. Have we forgotten the long-term sacrifices that we were called upon to make during World War II? How many of us really comprehend the magnificent significance, and the incomparable courage and honor that are being commemorated, in todays celebration of Operation Overlord and D-Day? How many of us even care?
We could spend an eternity trying to understand what has brought about this change in priorities/values (the breakup of the family, the emergence of the media as a powerful molder of the societal psyche, the leftists' hi-jacking of our education system....), but that's not my purpose here. I merely want to tell you how much, in hindsight, I value what you did for America -- and how I grieve over the fact that we no longer seem to admire those selfless leadership abilities which you so masterfully used to restore hope and dignity to our republic.
On Accepting Responsibility:
It is said that the true mettle of a leader is tested under trying circumstances (It is by presence of mind in untried emergencies that the native metal of a man is tested ... Lowell).
Despite the mainstream media's incessant attempts to drag you through the mud by exaggerating your shortcomings, or even manufacturing problems out of whole cloth, your eight years in the White House were glorious, and scandal-free, with the exception of the Iran/Contra Affair.
Your response to Iran/Contra was that of a leader who places his own legacy, and his own self esteem on the back burner, in order to preserve the concept of justice, and the Constitution. You did not, at any time, seek to divert public attention from the fact that, despite the fact that Oliver North and John Poindexter had done things about which they had not advised you, you were the man at the helm. You trusted those under you to obey the law, and, despite the fact that an initiative with noble aims (i.e., developing a relationship with Iranian moderates in an effort to bring the hostages home) took on a new dimension about which you were never told, you chose not to point the finger at those responsible (and thus, away from you).
Instead of deflecting blame from yourself, you seemed to bend over backwards to accept the responsibility for being misled. Charitably, you stated, Because I was so concerned with getting the hostages home, I may not have asked enough questions about how the Iranian initiative was being conducted ... as a result, on the day that John Poindexter came to the Oval Office to resign, I didn't ask him the questions I now wish I had.
You never practiced the art of buck-passing. All bucks stopped at your feet.
In stark contrast, many of our current leaders (and would-be leaders especially those in the legislature and judiciary, and those of a leftist bent) avoid the buck whenever it is convenient or politically attractive. Some of their methods for buck avoidance include:
(1) It never happened (and, even if it did, I declare it an irrelevant/personal matter).
(2) I did not do it/Someone else was in charge of that.
(3) The incident is exaggerated. There's a (usually vast, and invariably right-wing) conspiracy out to get me.
(4) I'm not quite sure what you mean by is.
They are cut from different cloth indeed. Flimsy, gauzy, see-through stuff.
Placing Value on Virtue/Goodness:
In your address to the 1992 Republican Convention you said (referring to the democrats), They put on quite a production in New York a few weeks ago. You might even call it slick. A stones throw from Broadway it was, and how appropriate. Over and over they told us they are not the party they were. They kept telling us with straight faces that theyre for family values, theyre for a strong America, theyre for less intrusive government. And they call me an actor.
IMHO, here is the most pronounced difference between your leadership and theirs:
You had, as your vision, the preservation of freedom (both here at home, and on a global scale. As a representative example of the global concept, one need only ask a Grenadan, unindoctrinated by American mainstream media propaganda, what he thinks of Ronald Reagan. The plaudits would be unending....)
You sought to free us from government interference in our lives. You sought to free us from the notion that we are somehow dependent on the state for our well-being. You sought to free us to dream of that shining city on a hill. And you sought to have America do all that was allowable under international law to secure those blessings for others as well.
By practicing what you preached, you earned the trust and respect, not only of your fellow Americans, but of leaders and their people throughout the world some of them our bitter ideological enemies. And you did it without ever once concerning yourself with how history will remember you. You were too busy leading to concern yourself with something so egocentric as writing your own legacy. Your legacy wrote itself. And it did so magnificently.
The Reagan Legacy can be seen in the absence of the Berlin wall; in the dissolution of the Soviet Union; in the feeling of dignity and pride that was pervasive in our republic during your tenure in office; in the might, capability, effectiveness, and freedom-preserving focus of the American military, which was the unflinching standard during your watch; in the unparalleled sense of economic well-being which permeated the 80's; in the resurrected life which was breathed into entreprenurial enterprise as a result of your low-tax/hands-off economic policies; and, perhaps most importantly, in the love and esteem with which those of us who followed your leadership hold you. You, sir, are an unparalleled American treasure.
Lincoln once lamented, You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
Many of our current leaders (and would-be leaders especially those in the legislature and judiciary, and those of a leftist bent) have honed into a art form the ability to mouth your words. They say all that you did regarding freedom, but what they do bears no resemblance to their words. They are slaves to an ideological agenda which requires the subjugation of the citizenry to the state and, in some cases, the subjugation of the state to global agendas and interests. But, their tactics require (actually demand) deceit in order to realize that agenda.
They would have us believe that they have our freedom, our security (both national, and personal), and our economic well-being at heart. In order achieve that monumental deception, they speak as you spoke. It has even been reported that representatives of the Clinton administration often requested copies of your speeches from the Reagan Library in order to understand your appeal (namely, speaking the truth, which is apparently a foreign concept to such people). They, and their kind, regularly used and continue to use -- your ideas, your vision, your mannerisms, in an effort to win the hearts of the people. And then they proceed to have their way with America, doing as they wish, despite the parameters to which they are held by the Constitution, and despite the fact that their deeds belie their words.
Trouble is, too many Americans are listening to these types of leaders, and neglecting to watch them. The listening to is easy. The watching requires more attentiveness, even vigilance. And too many of our countrymen are preoccupied with more pressing matters to pay attention to his sleight-of-hand maneuvers.
It is on this differentiation that the future of our republic will be determined. To those who care enough to pay attention -- to recognize the insidious wolf-in-sheep's clothing demeanor of many in current leadership positions (especially those of a leftist bent), there is a need to cry out to the rest of the populace -- to those who are lazily prone to accept political rhetoric at face value: Wake up! They are not who they claim to be! They are not doing what they claim to be doing!
The majority of Americans cannot continue to accept, at face value, leadership which says what we want to hear, and then proceeds to do as they wish -- which, in the case of much of the (especially congressional and judicial) leadership in this country requires the eventual subjugation of American citizens to the state, and the eventual subjugation of the American state to globalist governance. Simply put, the future of our republic will lie in the willingness of her people to take the time, and expend the effort, to look beneath the surface. Believing the words from the mouth of a leader is a conscious choice that must be made by every concerned citizen. As with any choice, it cannot be made without critical thought.
I'm afraid, Mr. President, much of the (especially legislative and judicial) decision-making for your beloved Republic now lies in hands that are other than good, and she has suffered major battle wounds in the process. Thanks to you, Bill Clinton inherited the most powerful, most respected nation in the history of the world. But, even before his inauguration speech had ended, he had already set about to dismantle America. At his side were a myriad of leftists, both Republican and Democrat, who share his dream of utopian, one-world government.
Yet there are those of us out here who intend to see to it that the tyrants do not continue to have their way with her. There are those of us out here who pray daily for another Reagan for another Reagan era.
As you appear to be moving closer to meeting your Creator, we selfishly, and despite your and your familys agony of the past few years, desperately dont want you to go. We believe that, with your passing, will also pass the greatest visible example of what is good and decent and moral and honest and courageous about this country. And that frightens us. Because the scheming and indecent and immoral and dishonest and cowardly among us are gaining more power with every passing day.
Even in illness, you have served as a beacon a port in the storm -- for liberty-loving Americans during two of the most faltering, irresolute, tumultuous decades of our existence. Without that beacon, we will have to look around for another upon which to fix our gaze and there is no other that shines as brightly.
God bless you, Ronald Reagan. Prayers of a grateful nation are being offered for you, and your beloved Nancy. Please know that countless of your countrymen are grieving deeply. But, through the timeless inspiration you provided, we will continue to stand firm in all of those principles you held to be immutable and sacred. In your honor ... and in defense of human liberty.
An attempt to share yesterday with you all ...
Thank you, Joanie. Your eloquence speaks volumes.
Quite simply, one DAMNED GOOD President. I'd have followed him to Hell with a cup of warm spit to kick the Devil's ASS!
Thank you for sharing your experience with us all.
WOW!- Thanks for the post!
What a beautiful and moving essay - it added so much to my TV experience of the procession.
This is bookmarked - excellent reporting.
Must Read *BUMP*
IMHO, I'd encourage you, in a few days, or a week, to write again, after you've had the time to ponder the impressions of the day. Also, I definitely think many here would like to hear your first-hand report of the conversation with the perso who was at the Pentagon on 9/11..
Again, a superb job..many thanks..
Wow.....Great post!! Thank you.
Your narration allowed me to be there with you. What a wonderful gift......thank you!
I watched some of the cortege and the ceremony.
I was struck by two things:
The respectful behavior of the crowd. Respectful to his memory and to the surroundings. No trash or rowdiness. Commendable.
Secondly, the stars and bars are really pretty. What a very beautiful flag we have. Of course, I have noticed this before and I am sure everyone feels this way about their national emblem....well, almost everyone
Wonderful tribute Joanie.
Thanks for posting all the photos.
Since I was watching on C-SPAN with no commentary, I'd wondered if those weren't his boots. I thought they looked like some I've seen in wearing in photos taken when he was riding. I got this notion because they were brown, rather than the usual black, and were of a slightly different style than the military boots one usually sees in these circumstances.
One person in our vicinity called out, God bless you, Nancy
That was clearly audible on the C-SPAN coverage, so it was heard by millions.
Thank you for the pictures.
Joanie, you've done much to ease the pain I'm feeling, and I'm willing to bet a lot of Freepers feel the same way. Thank you very much!
What a tremendous tribute! Thank you for your well-written words and your first hand account of yesterday's events. I hope it is acceptable that I have printed your tribute for my children (one who will be voting for the first time this year) to read. My words have fallen terribly short when I have tried to explain President Reagan's greatness to them. You have done him justice. Thank you.
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