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Inside Politics

Reagan state funeral prepared

Casket to be moved to Washington National Cathedral

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CNN's Brian Todd previews the state funeral.

CNN's Joe Johns on the thousands who have waited to view the casket.

Mikhail Gorbachev pays tribute to Ronald Reagan.
Audio Slide Show:  Waiting in line to pay respects

• Interactive: National Cathedral
• Interactive: Reagan audio
• Gallery: Military funerals
• Remembrance:  Your comments

Funeral services

  • The body is moved to Washington National Cathedral for a state funeral service at 11:30 a.m. ET.

  • It 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) -- 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 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.

    Capitol Hill Police Chief Terrance Gainer told CNN around 89,000 mourners will have passed through the Rotunda by the time the doors close Friday morning. By 11 p.m. Thursday, 69,000 people had paid their respects, according to the U.S. military district of Washington.

    At times, the lines to pay tribute to Reagan stretched for blocks, with waits of three hours or more.

    Thousands more visited in the overnight hours, and officials had to cut off the long line of visitors hours earlier than they had planned in order to begin preparing for the procession to the National Cathedral. (Interactive: Washington National Cathedral)

    Around 6 a.m., Gainer waded into the line of visitors, assuring people that they would get to see Reagan because officials had opened additional security checkpoints.

    "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." (Interactive: Hear excerpts from Reagan speeches)

    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.

    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. (Reagan ceremonies)

    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.

    Day of mourning

    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.

    Through the day Thursday, dignitaries stopped in to see Nancy Reagan at Blair House, where the first person to sign the condolence book was former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late president's conservative soul mate and close political ally.

    "To Ronnie: Well done, thou good and faithful servant," Thatcher wrote, borrowing a line from the Parable of the Talents in the Gospel of Matthew.

    Also paying his respects was former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

    "We just had a wonderful personal visit," he said. "She looked good and strong and very dignified, and given the painful circumstances, in remarkably good shape."

    Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, too, paid a call at Blair House.

    "I convey my deep feelings of condolence to dear Nancy and the whole family," he wrote in the condolence book. (Your thoughts)

    CNN's Joe Johns, Sean Loughlin, Elaine Quijano, Ed Henry, Ted Barrett and Silvio Carrillo contributed to this report.

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