10 Jun 2004 “This One Man Changed The World”
Executive Director David Almasi shares his experiences in paying respects to President Reagan at the Capitol Rotunda last night, and answers the question: Was paying respects worth standing eight hours in the heat?
Immediately after the caisson carrying Ronald Reagan’s coffin passed us on Constitution Avenue, the group I was with made our way to the line for viewing in the Capitol Rotunda.
Our group was an odd assortment: me and my wife, my intern, black conservative syndicated columnist and Project 21 member Mychal Massie, my boss from my first job in Washington and her boyfriend and a Pennsylvania state representative and a woman who served in Iraq with the Air Force. I had just met the latter two just hours earlier.
We entered the line at 7:30 in the evening. Dividers and rope lines stretched across the lawn in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool. The line moved in starts and stops. It was hot and muggy, but no one seems to mind too much.
Although the mood was solemn, people were cheerful and not in the least bit disruptive. Food and water was shared among strangers. A few people with cell phones guided pizza deliverymen through the lines to great fanfare.
The crowd was diverse. There were whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and people of countless other ethnicities. There were rednecks and bluebloods. Soldiers and police in full dress uniform along with men in business suits who refused to even loosen their ties standing alongside people in sandals and tank tops. There were elderly, newborns, and several pregnant women. People in wheelchairs and those who lacked the gift of sight. All were there to pay their final respects to the 40th President.
Everyone in our group saw someone they knew or who knew them. My new legislator friend, who represents a rural area of northeastern Pennsylvania, was recognized by one of his constituents who also made the trip. Massie was recognized by several readers of his WorldNetDaily column. I saw another old co-worker from over a decade ago. It was like a reunion of sorts.
When we officially entered the Capitol grounds, it was five minutes to midnight. I found this amusing since critics of Reagan often used this time analogy to describe how close they felt the Reagan Administration was pushing us to the brink of nuclear war. How wrong these critics were.
We arrived at the Capitol Rotunda at 12:30 am. The air was chilly – a dramatic change from outside. Members of every branch of the military stood like statues around Reagan’s coffin. Capitol Police kept order, but let people stay as long as they liked. Standing next to me in the Rotunda was a somber Christopher Cox, a former counsel to Reagan who is now a Member of Congress. Other congressmen were there to pay their respects and greet mourners.
At 1 am, five-and-a-half hours after we entered the line and eight hours after we left to meet the caisson, we were finally on our way home. Eight hours of standing in heat that caused some to pass out. Eight hours to walk past a flag-draped coffin for just a few minutes. Was it worth it?
Absolutely. I never met the man, but Ronald Reagan is one of the most important people in my life. My first work in politics was as a high school volunteer in his re-election campaign. Admiration of his policies and style of governing made me want to study political science in college. Preserving his legacy is why I came to Washington. It was the same for my wife. Not only am I thankful to him for what he did to strengthen our nation and bring freedom to the world, but also for playing a role in introducing me to my wife.
It’s the same at my office. My bosses, who are married to each other, would most likely never have met if not for Reagan’s presidency. They would not have the three wonderful children they have now (nor would three other friends who all have children with the middle names of Reagan). My office might never have even been established had he not been president.
This one man changed the world. He did it in big ways and at the individual level. That’s why I stood there in appreciation, and why hundreds of thousands of others did the same.