Washington prepares for final Reagan goodbye
State funeral drawing world leaders
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The nation's capital prepared to say its final goodbye to former President Ronald Reagan, who will be honored with a national funeral service Friday.
The funeral, in Washington's soaring National Cathedral, is expected to draw about two dozen world leaders past and present, the U.S. political establishment, key figures in the Reagan administration, family and friends. It will unfold under extraordinary security.
After the funeral, Reagan, who died Saturday at the age of 93 after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's disease, will be returned to California for a sunset burial at his presidential library in Simi Valley.(Special Report: Ronald Reagan)
The state funeral -- the first in more than three decades -- will begin with a formal military procession from the Capitol, where the body of the nation's 40th president has lain in state in the Rotunda since Wednesday night.
During that time thousands of admirers -- the well-known and the unknown, young and old -- passed in front of the bier.
"He changed my life," Joyce Okine, an immigrant from Ghana, said Thursday. "I'm an American citizen today because of Ronald Reagan, and I'm a proud American."
President Bush and first lady Laura Bush came in the early evening on Thursday, following the close of the G-8 summit in Georgia.
The couple paused briefly in front of the casket, resting on a catafalque built in 1865 for Abraham Lincoln's coffin.
Police plan to cut off the line for the Rotunda at 7 a.m. Friday to begin preparations for the funeral service, which is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. (Funeral ceremonies)
Eulogies will be given by Bush and his father, the former president, as well as former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- who made history with Reagan when he nominated her in 1981 to be the first woman to serve on the high court -- will give a reading, as will Rabbi Harold Kushner.
Former Sen. John Danforth of Missouri, an ordained Episcopal priest, will officiate at the funeral, but clergy from a number of other religious traditions will participate, including Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick; Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America; and Imam Mohammad Magid Ali of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.
Reagan's state funeral will be the first such ceremony since the service for President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1973.
Dignitaries expected to attend the funeral include British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the presidents of Nigeria, South Africa and Afghanistan. The widow of the late Shah of Iran, Farah Pahlavi, also will attend, her office said Thursday.
Among those who won't be attending is French President Jacques Chirac, who was in Georgia for the G-8 summit but opted to return to Paris.
France will be represented instead by former President Valery Giscard d'Estaing. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, in the middle of an election campaign, also decided to bypass the funeral and return home.
Friday has been designated a national day of mourning. The New York Stock Exchange will be closed, and only government offices necessary for national security will remain open.
The funeral and burial will cap a week of solemn and sweeping ceremonies that began Monday in Reagan's adopted home state of California.
There, Reagan's body lay in repose at his presidential library before it was flown across the country for the state funeral.
A procession Wednesday to the Capitol was marked by pageantry and poignancy. (Audio Slide Show: Returning to the Capitol)
Constitution Avenue was lined with thousands of admirers as a horse-drawn caisson transported Reagan's casket toward the Capitol to the cadence of drums and accompanied by a riderless horse, which signifies a fallen leader. A pair of Reagan's boots were turned backward in the stirrups to symbolize the loss of a warrior.