Honoring Reagan’s life

Tuesday, June 8th, 2004
I've just returned from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley, where I took my wife and children to pay our respects to a man who honored God and this great nation that we call the United States of America.
Reagan was a "first-class president" who gave the country a sense of optimism at a time when it needed it most. Most of all, Reagan was a "firm believer in the strength of the United States" who played an instrumental role in ending the Cold War  - Gerald Ford

20040608-HonoringPresidentReagan.jpgThe thing that I admired most about President Reagan, was the fact that he was not afraid to speak up for what he believed was right. Whether you agreed with his politics or not, President Reagan was a great example of someone that made the most out of the time that God granted him.  President Reagan lived his life to make a difference in the world and he positively affected the lives of many, here in the United States and around the world. While President Reagan has gone on to a much better place and is no longer suffering, he leaves behind a family, a nation, and a world that will miss him. May we all learn from his example that we only get one opportunity at life and that we need to make the most of it. Our family extends its prayers of comfort to the Reagan Family.

The experience of traveling to see the flag-draped casket of the President, under the vigilant watch of honor guards from each branch of the Armed Services, was certainly a memorable one. After a long drive down, we arrived very early in the morning at the grounds of Moorpark College, located just a few miles away from the Presidential Library. There, we joined a line of thousands of people who had also come to pay their respects.

It was very moving to see tens of thousands of people -- some of whom had driven all night and had travelled long distances -- all gathered to show their sympathy. Even with the large numbers of people, the process was actually quite solemn and orderly.  [It did surprise me to see that at least half the crowd was dressed quite casually, even sloppily --  as if they were coming from the gym or from doing yard work. (If you know Southern California, then you know that the laid back attitude often extends to attire as well.)  Fortunately, this was the only thing that I felt took away from the decorum of this public assembly.  Well, maybe not. There was the matter of cell phones. I realize that we were all in line together for close to 5 hours, but in all of the many simultaneous conversations that I was forced to listen to, none of them were of any significance. Fortunately, security told everyone to put away their phones once they reached the check-point, and I am thankful that cameras and camera-phones were also prohibited. OK, enough of my rants.]

Security was amazingly tight. In addition to the obvious security check-points, we were under the watchful eye of the Secret Service, L.A. County Sheriff, and the California Highway Patrol, and a multitude of video cameras. We spoke with one bomb-squad technician, who was standing by his vehicle, gear at his feet, and ready to be called to action. I complimented the security and he indicated that all of the departments were working together quite well.  I certainly felt very safe. These men and women did a fine job of ensuring that we were safe and that the lines kept moving. I was told that over a fifteen-hundred people an hour were able to pay their respects. Given the news estimates that over 80,000 people have viewed the casket so far, the number was probably closer to two thousand to twenty-five hundred people per hour. Simply amazing.

Once we had reached the front of the line and passed through the security check-points, we were taken by bus to the top of the mountain. There was an armed escort on board and CHP motorcycle officers accompanied many of the buses as well. As we disembarked at the Reagan Library we joined yet another line. Once we reached the front of that line, we were allowed to proceed around the hall where the President's body lay in repose. The casket was draped in the American flag, and honor guards stood watch at each corner and to the sides. These men are a living testimony of honor and duty to one's government and its Commander-In-Chief. I have not seen anything like this since I visited the tomb of the unknown soldier in Washington D.C., many years ago. It was very emotional.

We were ushered around the casket rather quickly, but I will not forget the awesome feeling of being in the room to pay my respects. I will always remember this event, and even though my children may not presently understand what an honorable man Reagan was, I want them to remember that we are blessed to live in this land and that we are thankful for our leaders and the men and women who serve us faithfully.

As we exited the viewing area, we were greeted by the Presidential Library staff, who handed us the above card, and personally thanked each of us for coming to pay our respects.

Another wait in line, and bus ride down the hill, and we were back at our starting point, where the Library staff invited us to sign the guest book. We took a moment to sign the book and to write our words of condolence and appreciation to the Reagan family.

Just as we were driving away, the California Highway Patrol evacuated the freeway to escort a multi-car motorcade -- complete with sirens, lights, and lots of motorcycles. Turns out it was just John Kerry. I guess he did not have to wait his turn in line for 4 hours, like the rest of us.

It has been a long day - 12 hours round-trip, and we were only in the room for a little more than 90 seconds in all. I realize that there are many people around the world who would have liked to have the opportunity to personally pay their respects to the President. I hope that this blog, in some small way, shares the experience.

I am grateful for the opportunity that my family and I had to honor the life of President Ronald Reagan, and I am thankful for the freedom that my children and children around the world, now enjoy, due in part to his efforts.

Eric Mack

Discussion/Comments (2):

Paying our respects

Thanks, Eric, for sharing your family experience.

I am reminded of how we seem to have an innate desire, even need, to honor and praise those whose lives reflect the good, the true, the beautiful. Ronald Reagan appealed to our highest ideals. The collective goodbye to our President has been deeply moving. The dignity and civility of it all is like a breath of fresh air. The 21 gun howitzer salute. The solemnnity. Amazing Grace. Hail to the Chief. Reflection time. Horse drawn caison. End of an era. Inspirational. Strength. Integrity. Morality. Clarity. Our nation needs this.

I'm thinking that Ronald Reagan would be so appreciative of the endless praise but would quickly point to God as the only one truly deserving of such adulation. Ronald Reagan was a great communicator and leader, but the basic principles he espoused, the message he articulated, came from another Source. He found a simple message about peace and love and brotherhood and knew we were all suckers for it. He found a pragmatic way to pursue it. Reagan was a conduit, not the content. He made his share of mistakes. He knew his limitations. He would not want to be placed on a pedestal. He was more comfortable on horseback or chopping wood or chatting with the doorman.

"All glory, laud and honor to Thee Redeemer King."

I can picture Ronald Reagan singing that song today even as we play Hail to the Chief. I wish he could communicate to us what he is experiencing in the present moment.


Posted at 6/9/2004 11:23:50 PM by Roger Austin

Thanks Eric, for sharing your experience

We wanted to go but were unable. You are very blessed to have been able to take part in this. My father-in-law's radio announcer in the 50's was Ronnie's brother, Neil Reagan (their mother's name was Nell), and my mother-in-law and he were good friends before he married Nancy, and he sent my mother-in-law a letter extending her and us (J.P., Lainie and Shannon) an invitation to the White House. I was very ill at the time and we were also unable to go. My, how much we missed. Thank you so much for sharing -- it means a lot to read your eloquent words.


Posted at 6/12/2004 9:55:37 AM by Lainie Sloane

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