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National Cathedral prepares to host state funeral

From Brian Todd
CNN

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Ronald Wilson Reagan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While networks scramble to coordinate camera positions, the National Cathedral is on virtual lockdown while security is beefed up for Ronald Reagan's state funeral where dozens of dignitaries will converge Friday.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are among the current heads of state expected to attend, as well as the presidents of two countries in turmoil -- Nigeria and Afghanistan.

French President Jacques Chirac will not be there. He's sending his foreign minister and a former French president instead.

President Bush will deliver a tribute, as will his father.

"I'm afraid the tears will flow. I'm going to try to find something to dry them up," says former President George H.W. Bush.

Also eulogizing the late president will be his old conservative allies on the world stage, former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain and Brian Mulroney of Canada.

Reagan's adversary-turned-partner Mikhail Gorbachev will be there, in the same room with Prince Charles.

It all adds up a to spectacle of pageantry and a sometimes overwhelming challenge for those protecting and covering the event.

Up to 18 network pool cameras will be in position inside and outside the cathedral and the Secret Service is coordinating with other security organizations, local police, and the U.S. military. They'll begin cordoning off entire blocks around the cathedral Friday morning.

The cathedral has hosted events like this in the past, including a state funeral for former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1969 and the national prayer and remembrance service just days after September 11, 2001.

One local resident anticipates a logistical nightmare.

"I haven't seen anything of this magnitude, so it'll be very interesting to see. But we're expecting a lot of traffic, a lot of disruptions in the off-street traffic here," says one Washington, D.C. resident.


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