Nation Bids Farewell to Ronald Reagan

06-11-04 - (Washington-AP) Mourners turned out early Friday morning for one last chance to pay their respects to former President Ronald Reagan before the funeral. All week, visitors have lined up by the thousands in stifling heat, waiting for hours to file by the flag-draped coffin. Some shed tears; others simply shuffle past in silence.

Early Friday, the stream of mourners ended as the Reagan family and close friends have a few private moments before the ceremonies begin for a state funeral for a United States president.

Ronald Reagan planned his funeral himself. During his first term, he asked his vice president, George Bush, to deliver a eulogy. He'll be doing that today, along with one given by his son, the incumbent president.

Britain's Margaret Thatcher and Canada's Brian Mulroney will also speak. They led their nations when Reagan was president. Thatcher has been slowed by a series of small strokes. She'll be attending the service at Washington National Cathedral but taped her remarks several months ago. Three other living former presidents -- Ford, Carter and Clinton will also be among the 38-hundred invited members of the congregation. Churches through the nation plan to ring their bells 40 times in tribute to the 40th president.

After the funeral service in Washington, there will be a brief departure ceremony as President Reagan's body is sent back to California for burial. He will be laid to rest at sunset on the grounds of the Presidential Library.