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Thursday, June 13th, 2024

June 5, 2004

If you're like me, June 5, 2004 has a special significance -- the day that our 40th President, Ronald Reagan, passed away.

It also was my 33rd wedding anniversary, a day in which my wife and I spent much of our time watching the news reports on the Gipper's passing.

As fate would have it, we were living in the Washington, D.C., area at the time. As a long-time admirer and supporter of President Reagan, I had made a solemn vow that when the time came, I would be in our nation's capital to pay my final respects to this great man.

Think back to more than two years ago -- the outpouring of outright love for the man and all he represented, as well as all he accomplished, was stunning.

The Forgotten Street turned out in masses to pay homage to a leader who showed that strong conviction and a sense of national purpose could truly change the world.

I was fortunate to be one of the hundreds of thousands who lined Constitution Avenue on June 9 as the President's casket was carried on the caisson to the Capitol to lie in state. What a unique American celebration it was! A sea of diversity, Americans of all colors and ages, a snapshot of the everyday Americans who make this country so great.

And it was a celebration. Indeed, many thousands showed up to pay their respects to a revered President, to honor the legacy of freedom he gave the world. While surely there were those like me in mourning, there was a festive air as well in displaying our patriotism so openly.

It was a moment to never be forgotten. As the procession made its way along the avenue, we watched honor guards and bands from each military branch, wave after wave, lead the march.

Then a somber hush came over the crowd as the President's casket passed, followed by the riderless horse with Ronald Reagan's favorite riding boots placed backward in the stirrups. My wife and I stood silently, our arms around each other, remembering the Great Liberator with fondness.

After the procession passed, we made our way up 7th Avenue to head toward the Capitol. Just then, the fighter jets roared overhead, with the missing man veering off into the heavens. An amazing sight to behold.

We reached the end of the Mall close to the Capitol in time to see the President's casket carried up the long marble steps and into the Rotunda for the public viewing. My wife had to leave, so I then got in line to pass through the Rotunda.

And, what a line it was. It stretched as far as I could see, an endless zigzag of people. I entered the queue at around 7:30 p.m., not knowing what to expect.

The Real America
What I found was truly remarkable -- the most diverse, eclectic group of Americans I've ever seen in one place, all patiently waiting in withering mid-90's heat.

The next day, The Washington Post and other snotty elite media would bemoan the lack of black Americans in line. What a shameless lie! I saw scores upon scores of black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans. You name it, they were there with the thousands in line.

Just in front of me, the young Mitchell family from Dallas with their two toddler girls. Just behind me, two young black women. On either side, a crowd as diverse as you would ever imagine.

Every age, every demographic, from all parts of the country. Among them: two men from Teamsters 429 in Reading, Pennsylvania; Jim Ellis of the Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police Department in full dress uniform; two men in t-shirts saying "Bluegrass: Made in America With Pride"; bikers in full Harley-Davidson gear; young black men in NBA/hip hop wear; families dressed in their Sunday best; World War II veterans proudly wearing hats depicting their military affiliations; groups of school children in town for a visit to Washington; and assorted members of the military in uniform.

But I was most struck by two sights that evening. First, I saw two blind men in line, one a young Asian-American, the other an older white man. Think about it -- two blind people in line in stifling heat to pay tribute to a man they probably had never seen.

An even more remarkable sight was a young woman in an electric wheelchair a few places in line in front of me. She appeared to be in her early twenties, stricken with what appeared to be a form of palsy. Despite the brutal heat, she hung in there for the almost five hours it took to get through the line to the Capitol.

She was accompanied by her wonderful mother, who was seriously worn down from the heat, but determined to get through to the Rotunda with her daughter.

As we finally reached the entry point for the Capitol to go through the metal detector screening, the mother bent down in front of the girl, cupped her face lovingly in her hands and said, "Happy Birthday, sweetheart. You got your wish."

As I write this, my eyes tear up, just as they did that night. What I witnessed was the real America, The Forgotten Street, who came out in droves to honor a man so scorned by our elites. I witnessed the true power of our society, a people bound together by a sense of pride in our history and our values. But this was a scene you would never see on your evening news or read about in your daily paper.

Passing through the Rotunda, walking past the flag draped casket, I saluted and whispered, "God bless you, Mr. President," and said a silent prayer thanking God for the leadership of Ronald Wilson Reagan.
"You can't be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy."

President Ronald Reagan
November 7, 1988