God Bless Ronald Reagan
This is the eight anniversary of the death of my greatest American hero. No one else from the 20th Century even comes close.
A sadness for me is that though he changed my life I never voted for him. That I was not able to recognize his greatness earlier will forever be my loss. I was a democrat at the time he was first elected. However the vicious attacks on this man during the 1980 campaign did start my rejection of that party's politics of hate.
By 1984 I had read Ayn Rand's book 'Atlas Shrugged' and Friedrich Hayek's book 'The Road to Serfdom'... plus numerous other writings on socialism. As a result I had abandoned supporting the democrat party. However old habits die hard and I could not bring myself to vote for Reagan's re-election even though I thought he was the best candidate. I was still thinking through my personal political beliefs. I had not made the decision on how evil socialism was that has guided me since. I sat out the election.
However the more I read about this decent and honorable man the more I decided, his patriotism and love of America was the type of person I wanted to be. He was not just opposed to socialism but was in favor of so many good things. He knew what he believed in. He could tell you why. He was inspiring. In 1986 I joined the Republican party ... because of him.
The following is an article I wrote on the first anniversary of his death.
(In 2005) I got up at 5:15 on June 5th and logged on to my favorite web site to see what they had to say about the anniversary of Ronald Reagan's death. There were several laudatory articles about Reagan. As I read them my eyes started to mist up. One of the articles linked to one blogger's personal remembrances of the funeral of 2004. It is a great read and you can find it here. (There are also some great links to pictures of Ronald Reagan on the site.)
After wiping away a few tears, I went looking for my own pictures of the event. In 2004 I lived in Culver City, California and was thus close to the events that we all watched on TV. Looking at the pictures brought back the memories. When Reagan died, the first thing that I did was go to the funeral home in Santa Monica where he was taken. It was only a few blocks from the campaign headquarters where I had spent 3 months of my life the previous year working for Arnold Schwarzenegger. I knew the area well.
With a large crowd of people I simply stood across the street and watched not sure exactly what to do. I talked briefly with a couple of people I knew from the campaign who had also come by. Shortly someone brought some flowers and placed them by a fountain in the yard of the funeral home.
Gates Funeral Home In Santa Monica
I wanted to do something so I left and went back home to get an American Flag that I had. I bought some flowers from the florist in Fox Hills Mall and returned to place them both beside the fountain. There were already several flowers and flags when I returned to add mine. When Nancy Reagan came to pay her respects at the funeral home on Sunday, the fountain was surrounded by a sea of flowers and flags. It gave me comfort to know that mine was among them.
One Of These Is My Flag, Can't Tell Which
Nancy Reagan Views The Spontaneous Memorial At The Funeral Home
I knew I had to go to view this great man. It was a necessity not an option. So on Monday June 7th of 2004, I got up early, ate breakfast, dressed as if I as going to church, and prepared to leave for Simi Valley. While I was doing this I watched Nancy Reagan and the family on TV as they were allowed a special viewing at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. I headed out the door as they were leaving the Presidential Library where Regan lay in repose.
Driving north on the San Diego Freeway I headed through the Sepulveda pass. Halfway up I saw a group of motorcycles leading a cavalcade of cars coming down the hill. I grabbed my camera as I realized it was Nancy Reagan returning from the Library in Simi Valley. I clicked a picture of the car going by on the opposite side of the freeway that seemed to be the one in the center of the group. Sorry it is a little blurry but I didn't have time to focus.
Nancy Reagan Motorcade Returning From the Library
I continued on up the Freeway and turned west on President Ronald Reagan Freeway (how appropriate) to head to Moorpark College. That is where we were told by TV announcements we would have to park to take a bus to the Library. There was a long line of cars waiting to exit the Freeway at the college off ramp. Then there was a long drive up the hill to park. It was bumper to bumper traffic the entire way and took almost 2 hours. I finally found a space in one of several parking lots at the college. The space I found was in a lower level lot.
Heading Up The Hill To Park At Moorpark College
When I arrived there were no signs that said what to do next, but as I looked around, I saw people going up some stairs. Following them, I found the end of a huge line that snaked around the upper parking lot. I joined in.
Still In Line After 2 Hours More
The line was really great. Everyone around me was talking about Reagan, their memories of him, their love for this man. We quickly became like a fraternity. Because the line circled back we could talk to people passing by going the other way as well as those around us. We exchanged stories about where we were from and why we were there. There was one couple that had flown in from Ohio, just for Ronald Reagan. The whole time it was respectful and quiet but quite emotional. Talking passed the time and after a couple of hours we got to the guest books.
Signing The Guest Book - Looking Back At The Huge Line Behind
The line then moved on to the security check point for screening to get on the bus .
The Second Line For Security Screening
It was when I took a picture of the buses (that happened to have some secret service people in the picture) that I found out they did not like pictures being taken. I was informed in no uncertain terms that no pictures were allowed. I had two cameras so when they demanded my camera I gave them the one that I had not started using. I had dropped the one I was using in my coat pocket. I am not sure why but like most Americans I guess I resent authority a little so I still have the pictures. I was careful to be discreet with the camera from then on.
Security Calls For Me To Stop On the bus ride over to the Library, I was interviewed on a local radio station about why I had come. I never got to hear the interview but a friend told me that I made the show as he heard me on the radio. I wish I could remember what I said. All I know is that it was heartfelt at the time.
Arriving At The Library After My Radio Interview
While I was standing in line at the Library, I was praying. People behind me waited patiently until I stopped without asking me to move forward, even though I had allowed a large gap to open up in front of me. I cannot express how moved I was by the dignity of the entire event and how unlike most crowd scenes that day was. It will forever stand as a monument to how good people can be in certain circumstances.
I remember hearing on the news later that they had to extend the viewing at the Library. After the public viewing ended they had a special viewing for all the police who were kept busy monitoring the events around the state and could not get to the public viewing. There were so many who came that they had to extend the period for several hours as they came from all over the state, driving all night in many cases.
Ronald Reagan's Statue
The picture above is not one I took, but it does show the purple flowers where I hid my camera before I was screened by security a second time. They were still taking cameras and I did not have another spare to surrender. I dropped my camera discreetly in the planter so I would not lose it.
The following are pictures I downloaded off the Internet showing the area of the viewing where I could not use my camera.
Casket From Above
Arnold And Maria
Ronald Reagan - Lying In Repose
Upon leaving the viewing area I had to hang around for a while before no one was looking so I could retrieve my camera from the planter. I then got on the bus to return to the college. I found my car and headed home. As I left I was amazed at the huge line of cars still waiting on the expressway to get to the college to park. All night people kept coming. It never let up for two days.
As I Leave The Line Going In Is Still Huge
That entire week was a very emotional and moving experience. After attending the memorial at the Presidential library, I spent much of the rest of the week watching the events in Washington DC. The outpouring of love, honor and respect was genuine and sincere. I miss Ronald Reagan. I still cannot say goodbye, even though I know I must. I just cannot find the words to say what I feel.
So long Mr. President
However nothing can explain this man better than his own words. These words are from his monument.
I Know In My Heart That Man Is Good, That What Is Right Will Always Eventually Triumph And There Is Purpose And Worth To Each And Every Life - Ronald Reagan God bless you Ronald Reagan. You were a great man. You did not just change the world for the better, you changed people for the better. Goodbye ... for now.