Saturday, June 5, 2004

A Perspective on Reagan's Funeral Procession

A unit proeceds the casket processionalRonald Reagan's casket processionalThe riderless horse following the casket processionalI learned recently that I am not a cynic. I always thought I was. For years I looked at my half empty glass and wondered why everyone was concerned about a glass with water in it. This is to not say that I was never happy. I have always been, and remain, a very happy person – I have always enjoyed life’s little things. But now I know that the big picture can touch me as well.

I was standing on a wall of the American History Museum in Washington, D.C., trying desperately to get a better view of the advancing procession. As my girlfriend and I peered over the heads of people in front of us I wondered what I was doing there. I mean, what do I care? He died. It happens all the time to public figures I know just as well – or as little – as I knew Ronald Reagan.

The soldiers marched down in rows, looking impressive as ever. They came to a sudden and dramatic stop, standing at full attention in the blistering heat. I was hot in shorts and a tee shirt. Tthese guys must have felt like the Earth was ending and hell fire was raining down from the sky. They stood there at full attention for what felt like an hour. The officers pulled some of the soldiers out of their lines to let them cool off and drink some water that pedestrians freely handed them. Everyone cheered as they were pulled off in a show of great support and humanity.

Eventually the soldiers were on the march again. There would be a lot more soldiers to come. And then there were all of the limos – they seemed to stretch forever. Black, unmarked cars that US officials are known the world over for driving. I can only imagine what foreign dignitaries and US officials filled them.

A growing sound began to pass through the audience. I could feel it wash over me. Soon it was no longer just a sound; it became a deep feeling. The beautiful horses drawing the carriage and the casket passed by, invoking an emotional response in me that I was surprised to find. The flag-draped casket brought a feeling of pride and awe in everyone. The lone rider-less horse that trotted behind the casket, agitated by the events and pulled by a Marine, brought a tear to my eye and a feeling of loss.A feeling that we, as a people, lost something that day. That America lost something that day.

I went to the parade thinking that this would be something I could tell my future grand kids about. The crowds annoyed me and I wondered how long it would take us to leave with sp many people in front of us. After the parade everything had changed. I realized I was not a cynic after all. I felt the sadness of the passing of a great man – and I feel like a better man for having felt that. fb

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