Tuesday, June 15, 2004


I might have been on TV on Thursday. Yes, I was one of the thousands in line to pay respects to Ronald Reagan at the Capitol rotunda.

I figured it might take an hour to get there, an hour in line, and an hour to get back. Yeah right - I was there from about 2:15 PM and didn't make it out of the rotunda until about 6:30. That was plenty long for me, but for others it was far longer. Then finally around 2AM on Friday the stragglers were shooed off because it was clear that they wouldn't have time to make the rotunda.

I don't know what kind of crowds they were expecting, but they had all sorts of support people around. Huge fans were all over, as was complementary ice water. Fortunately it wasn't really hot.

A Reagan crowd, especially one to honor his memory, wasn't likely to go too crazy with dress (imagine a Clinton crowd...). Even so, it wasn't quite up to the standards of a man who insisted on wearing a jacket in the Oval Office. Having come from work, I was in "business casual". WaPo has more here.

When I got there the line was doubled back on itself several times on the west side of the Capitol reflecting pool. From there it ran around the south side of the pool, just to the inside of the statue of James Garfield, then around the south side of the Capitol.

Eventually there was a frisker shack on the south end of the Capitol grounds, beyond which about everything inorganic was contraband. The line moved rapidly though, and whatever was not permitted to pass was tracked and forwarded ahead to a point past the Capitol for later recovery.

From there it was up to the outside of the Capitol, then up a flight of stairs to the rotunda. We were split into two semicircular groups - I chose the line with backs to the press because if I was going to lose composure it didn't have to be published.

There was profound silence but for press cameras, despite probably 100 or so of us being lined up behind the velvet ropes. That couldn't have lasted for more than a minute or so before we were herded out. Even more silent were the representatives from all of the armed services who stood at attention around the catafalque - they were so still that they almost appeared stuffed.

Finally we were sent back down another flight of steps and back outside. Conversation started again, and people with feet so sore they could barely walk and several blocks of walking yet to go swore they'd do it again.

Bryan Preston went also - his account is here.

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