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Inside Politics

Thousands pay tribute to Reagan

Former president lies in state

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Thousands of people waited hours to view Reagan's casket.

CNN's Jeff Greenfield on Reagan and his appeal.

Former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev pays tribute to Cold War foe Ronald Reagan.
• Audio Slide Show:  Waiting in line to pay respects

• Audio Slide Show:  Procession
• Gallery: Military funerals
• Gallery:  A solemn journey
• Interactive: The funeral services
• Remembrance:  Your comments

The body lies in state at the Capitol for visitation all day

The body is moved to Washington National Cathedral for a state funeral service, then is flown back to California for a 6:15 p.m. PT (9:15 p.m. ET) private funeral, followed by burial at the Reagan Library

Ronald Wilson Reagan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Admirers by the tens of thousands -- young and old, well-known and unknown, dressed up and dressed down -- came to the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Thursday to slowly file past the flag-draped casket of former President Ronald Reagan.

"This is a very special day," said Blanche Anderson of Virginia. "I've been a fan of Ronald Reagan since he become president, and this is my opportunity to say good-bye."

The lines to pay tribute to Reagan stretched for blocks, with long waits to climb the marble steps into the Rotunda.

Parents pushed strollers or held in their arms children born well after Reagan's time in office. Some saluted, or put their hands over their hearts; others wept.

Reagan's body will lie in state until Friday morning, when funeral services will be held at Washington's National Cathedral.

Among the more prominent figures to pass in front of the bier were the new interim president of Iraqi, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar; former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev; former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole; and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- who became the first woman to sit on the nation's highest court when Reagan appointed her in 1981.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush came in the early evening, following the close of the G8 summit in Georgia.

The couple paused briefly in front of the casket, resting on a catafalque built in 1865 for Abraham Lincoln's coffin.

Former President Bush and his wife Barbara also paid their respects at the bier.

Reagan, who as the nation's 40th president helped bring an end to the Cold War and revitalized the conservative wing of his Republican Party, died at age 93 Saturday, following a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's disease. (Special Report: Ronald Reagan)

The mourners came from all walks of life. Grandmothers guided young children along. One man in a native Indian headdress paused in front of the bier. One young Marine -- missing his hands from a grenade attack in Iraq -- saluted the casket.

"He changed my life," said Joyce Okine, an immigrant from Ghana. "I'm an American citizen today because of Ronald Reagan, and I'm a proud American."

At one point Thursday, officials estimated that 5,000 people per hour were passing through the Rotunda, officials said.

Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said the length of the wait to view Reagan's casket had fallen from five hours Wednesday night to an hour and 45 minutes Thursday morning.

Gainer said the line has been slowed by people trying to bring "inappropriate items," such as cameras, flowers, food and drinks and oversized bags.

By 6 p.m., 58,000 people had visited in the roughly 21 hours since the Rotunda was opened Wednesday night, Gainer said.

The queue for congressional staff members waiting to view the casket was so long that it clogged the hallways on the first floor of the building.

Reagan's state funeral on Friday at Washington's National Cathedral will be the first such ceremony in more than three decades. The last state funeral was for President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1973. (Funeral ceremonies)

Reagan will be eulogized by many of his contemporaries -- former President Bush, who served as his vice president; former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a conservative ally and a close friend; and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

The current President Bush will speak at the service as well. (Bush urges stronger NATO role in Iraq)

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. (Your thoughts)

Thursday's public viewing followed an elaborate cross-country journey Wednesday, when Reagan's body was moved from his adopted home state of California to Washington. (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 rider.

When the casket reached the west steps of the Capitol, a military flyover of 21 planes paid tribute, the last four executing the "missing man" formation.

At an evening ceremony inside the Rotunda, Vice President Dick Cheney called Reagan a "graceful and a gallant man," and House Speaker Dennis Hastert hailed the late president's "optimism and ... Western can-do spirit." (Cheney: Reagan was an idealist)

Mrs. Reagan was spending Thursday at Blair House, the official guest residence across the street from the White House, where she was receiving some visitors. Among those calling on the former first lady were Gorbachev, Thatcher and Mulroney.

Thatcher was the first person to sign Reagan's condolence book at Blair House. "To Ronnie, well done thou good and faithful servant," she wrote.

Tight security

Security is tight in the nation's capital, with checkpoints and bomb-sniffing dogs around some government buildings. Thousands of officers are on the streets, particularly around the Capitol.

The grounds of the Capitol and the Supreme Court were briefly evacuated late Wednesday afternoon because of radio problems with a small plane carrying Kentucky's governor, who is scheduled to attend the funeral.

The plane was authorized to enter Washington's restricted airspace but was having problems with a radio transponder, which prevented air traffic controllers from tracking the aircraft, an FAA official said. (Capitol evacuated before Reagan procession)

Capitol police were working with the U.S. Park Police, FBI, ATF and the Secret Service, Gainer said, noting that between 3,000 and 4,000 officers would be on duty.

CNN's Ted Barrett, John King, Sean Loughlin, Chris Lawrence, David Mattingly and Elaine Quijano contributed to this report.

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