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Sunday, June 12, 2005

It was one year ago this past week...

...that Ronald Reagan passed away.

I know that there is - and probably will always be - some debate about his times as President of the United States. The man wasn't perfect by any stretch. Then again, who among us is anyway?

But I always admired Reagan. Part of his charm was that he wasn't afraid to admit having human foibles. He spoke with people, not at them or down to them. And they were people from all walks of life: foreign dignitaries, ecclesiastical authorities, or humble family farmers.

We were in Atlanta, me and Lisa and one of her friends from college, when the news broke that Reagan had died. We were on our way to the Lord of the Rings concert with Howard Shore conducting (I got the tickets about six months earlier, a Christmas present for Lisa). The concert was great, but all night it felt like... like the era of my childhood was finally, at last, finished. You didn't grow up in the Eighties without being in Reagan's shadow somehow: he was that kind of bigger than life. Nancy was bigger than life. Remember when we saw Reagan walking around the White House rose garden with Michael Jackson? Today Reagan is dead and Jacko is awaiting the verdict in his child molestation trial.

What the hell's happened to this country?

That was Saturday when he died. We were leaving back for home Tuesday morning and it was Monday night, while watching the mourners file past his casket at the Reagan Library in California, that I decided I had to go to D.C. and pay my respects to the man. We got back home about 10 that night and 12 hours later I hit the road again. Met up with some friends from the Internet along the procession route on Constitution Avenue and about 6 that evening the caisson bearing his casket filed past where we were standing...

I stayed in D.C. one more day, getting in line late Thursday night to try and get into the Capitol rotunda where his remains lay in state. It was like seven hours' wait from the far end of the Air and Space Museum, through five large "holding pens" on the Mall set up to accommodate the crowd, but just after the beautiful sunrise broke at dawn ("mourning in America", I couldn't help but think) our group got inside and were there for what turned out to be the next-to-last changing of the guard done in the Rotunda. Sure didn't seem like that long a wait though: all through the night I met with some really neat people from all over the place. Domino's and Papa John's were delivering pizzas to folks waiting in line (how they were told which holding pen to come to I've no idea). The Park Service had bottles of water for everyone. It was a little before 8 when we got through the buiding and I took the train back to my waiting car, drove to my hotel and packed up and went home.

I started writing about this a few days ago but got caught up in some things on this end. Wanted to come back and finish up this lil' tribute to the man. Wish this country could have other men of his kind of caliber in high office.