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Americans Line Washington Streets for Final Reagan Farewell - 2004-06-11

As dignitaries from around the world gathered at Washington's National Cathedral for former President Reagan's funeral, thousands of Americans filled the streets outside, despite a light rain, to pay last respects.

They were men, women and children, old and young, some dressed in their best suits, some in cut-off pants and sandals. They looked like a cross section of middle America. Many traveled great distances and stood in drizzling rain for hours just to be able to watch the motorcade carrying President Reagan's casket from the Capitol to the National Cathedral.

Among them was Jerry Morrison, who took several days off from work and drove from his home in Kentucky.

"President Reagan was the first president I had an opportunity to vote for. That was a big thing [for me]. And I think if you just look at the man's record [in office], with the economic expansion and winning the Cold War and what a good person he was, I just thought I needed to come here to show my respect for him," he said.

Mr. Morrison said he admired President Reagan not only for the policies he pursued, but also for the qualities he exuded as a leader.

"As a person, his self-confidence, his confidence in the country and his sense of fair play and his goodness that he showed toward everybody," he said.

The mood was somber, yet reverent as the motorcade passed by. There was applause, but no cheering. It was a moment of respectful appreciation, in which many appeared misty-eyed and found expression with their hands, not their voices.

Yet, not everyone showed up to pay tribute to the former president. Several dozen members of a radical Christian sect held up large signs that read, among other things, "Reagan in hell." One sign-bearer, Margie Phelps, said Ronald Reagan's Hollywood persona ran contrary to Christian teachings about humility and religious devotion.

"How he lived was by the standard of rugged individualism and American patriotism, which has nothing to do with heaven," he said. "He served man instead of God."

But the vast majority gathered to pay tribute and bid a final farewell to a leader who inspired them. Mary Galinas and her husband drove all night long from Ohio, in order to stand along a street leading to the National Cathedral. She said she will never forget Ronald Reagan.

"To me, he was someone who made politics look like a worthy occupation," she added. "As a very young child, I saw the assassination of a president and I saw a Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War and a lot of things that were not pretty. But when he [Ronald Reagan] came on the scene, it was like fresh air. He made good sense. A conservative Republican, he directed [inspired] me in the way I was going to be as a Republican and I came from a Democratic family. He was a very inspiring person. He did a lot for the country and I felt we should be here to honor him, as he did so much for us."

Ms. Galinas added that she shed a few tears when she learned of President Reagan's death and that she expected to shed a few more before the end of the day.