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PAULA ZAHN NOW
The Other Victims of Alzheimer's Disease; Images of Ronald Reagan
Aired June 8, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ten years before his death, Alzheimer's disease began stealing Ronald Reagan from his family.
NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: Ronald's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him.
ZAHN: But 19 million other Americans are also lost in a heart- breaking struggle to care for a stricken family member. Tonight, the other victims of Alzheimer's.
And for years, she followed his every move, moments in time transformed into iconic images -- a look through the lens of famed photojournalist Diana Walker.
ZAHN: Good evening and welcome. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
Alzheimer's disease is cruel to those who have it and to the family members who watch as their loved ones slowly and inevitably fade away. The Reagan family endured that for 10 years. Well, millions more American families will have to endure that as well. According to the Alzheimer's Association, by the year 2050, as many as 16 million Americans may have Alzheimer's, 16 million people with sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives, who will also suffer.
ZAHN (voice-over): It is called the long goodbye, a slow descent. First, the mind slips away and then the body follows. Ronald Reagan was not alone; 4.5 million Americans are afflicted with it. Ronald Reagan made the world aware of the hardships placed on the families.
"Unfortunately, as Alzheimer disease progresses," he wrote in 1994, "the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience." Over the years, Nancy Reagan put up a brave front, yet, at times, her pain broke through. In her 2000 book "I Love You, Ronnie," she wrote: "No one can really know what it's like unless they've traveled this path. And there are many right now traveling the same path I am. You know that it is a progressive disease and there's no place to go but down, no light at the end of the tunnel. You get tired and frustrated because you have no control and feel helpless," a helplessness that Nancy Reagan turned into fierce determination, a searing emotional public speech just last month.
N. REAGAN: Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this. There are so many diseases that can be cured or at least helped. We've lost so much time already and I just really can't bear to lose anymore.
ZAHN: Daughter Maureen took her pain and become a tireless advocate for Alzheimer's awareness. Despite suffering from cancer, she spent the final years of her life before she passed away in 2001 fighting for a cure for her father's disease.
MAUREEN REAGAN, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: It impacts the family because there is a participant who is no longer participating, certainly a central part of the family whose input we all enjoyed and who is now not able to do that.
ZAHN: But perhaps no one was more eloquent than daughter Patty, who wrote in a 2002 "TIME" magazine article: "In the early stages of Alzheimer's, the eyes have a wariness, a veil of fear. It's as if the person is standing at edge of a fog bank, knowing that in time it will engulf him and there is no chance of outrunning it. The eyes of family members change, too. My brother Ron's eye shows the sweet stoicism that men seem born to possess.
"But looking for more intently, I see the bubble of pain beneath the surface. I was the little girl who worshipped her father and the young woman who hurt him the way daughters do when their love is needy and true. Now I look at him in a soft, maternal way, which still feels odd to me after all these years, as if the laws of nature have been turned upside down. My mother's eyes are frequently such deep wells, I have to look away."
ZAHN: It is a pain that millions of families and caregivers face every day, a pain displayed by a very public family saying the long farewell to their loved one.
Joining us now is Dr. Gary Small. He is the director of the UCLA Center on Aging and the author of "The Memory Prescription."
Welcome. Good to see you in person.
I know you recently met with Mrs. Reagan. What did the two of you talk about?
DR. GARY SMALL, DIRECTOR, UCLA CENTER ON AGING: After speaking with Nancy, I can tell you that she remained fiercely dedicated to her husband, even when he was at end stages of Alzheimer's and out of reach to her.
And what she said to me and the rest of the world that evening was that we should stop wasting time. We need to do whatever we can to prevent more families from feeling the pain of Alzheimer's and other age-related illnesses. She actually agreed with me that the best medicine for Alzheimer's, diabetes, Parkinson's and these devastating illness was through research and prevention.
ZAHN: Could you tell in the conversation that you had if there was this general acceptance that the end was near?
SMALL: I definitely sensed an acceptance, that she had come to terms with the long, devastating, emotionally tiring experience of being with a loved one suffering from this illness. And this is typical of family members who have to deal with Alzheimer's disease. They go through a long process where they literally mourn the loss of the person. The human being is no longer emotionally there.
The physical person is there. And it isn't until they die that they do the final mourning process. It can be very confusing emotionally.
ZAHN: Of course it can. And you could see the wear and tear on Mrs. Reagan's face, particularly as she put her face on her husband's casket yesterday.
This has been a 10-year fight for her family. Is that an unusual length of time from diagnosis to death?
SMALL: Ten years today is fairly typical. With better day-to- day care, we find that Alzheimer victims are living longer. And that just prolongs the suffering of family members. It's true that we do have treatments or medications that help with the symptoms, but as yet, we have no cure.
However, there is a lot of hope for new treatments. Research is very active. I'm convinced that within the next 10 years, we're going see some major breakthroughs in prevention research.
ZAHN: It was Mrs. Reagan's belief that maybe one of the things that sped up the progression of President Reagan's Alzheimer's was a fall that he had taken on his horse. Might that have contributed?
SMALL: It very well may have...
ZAHN: To the Alzheimer's becoming more active.
SMALL: It very well may have contributed.
We know from many studies that if somebody hits their head and they lose consciousness for an hour or more, that will double their risk for Alzheimer's disease. Genetics are important as well. For example, if you have a genetic risk for Alzheimer's and you hit your head, that might increase your risk tenfold.
But for the average person, the risk for Alzheimer's, only one third of that risk comes from genetics, which you inherit from your parents. That means that two-thirds has to do with nongenetic factors. And lifestyle choices are tremendously important. ZAHN: A final thought on a number of published reports that are suggesting that the Reagan family took great comfort in believing that the president actually might have recognized Mrs. Reagan before he took his last breath. Is that possible?
SMALL: It's certainly possible. We often see that even at end stage of the disease, there can be moments where there is at least a sense of recognition. The brain is a very complicated organ. What happens in the disease is that the neurons or the brain cells are misfiring and they're not communicating well.
But there can be moments where at least there is that sense that there is recognition and the person is there.
ZAHN: Dr. Small, thank you for your time tonight.
SMALL: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Appreciate it.
And when we come back, I'll be talking with a man who is living with Alzheimer's and has written about his experience.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Living with Alzheimer's from day to day is a struggle for patients and their families. We caught brief glimpses of the pain Nancy Reagan endured during her husband's very long illness.
But we turn now to a man who can give us a unique view of what it's like to live with the disease. Five years ago, when he was 57, Thomas Debaggio was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Since then, he has written books about his struggle, including one called "Losing My Mind."
In it he writes: "I awake in the dark morning without awareness of what day of the week it is. I wait for the newspaper or the radio to locate me in time. The day of the week, the hour of the day has little meaning for me, even when I remember. I float in my own chaotic world, grateful to know I am still alive."
Thomas Debaggio joins us from Washington, along with his wife, Joyce.
Good to see both of you. Welcome.
THOMAS DEBAGGIO, ALZHEIMER'S SUFFERER: Good morning. Hello.
JOYCE DEBAGGIO, WIFE OF THOMAS: Nice to be here.
ZAHN: So we are all very moved by that little passage I just read, Thomas. Describe to us what it is like to realize that you're not only losing grasp of distant memories, but things as simple as the day of the week? T. DEBAGGIO: Well, it's something that's kind of hard to explain, because everybody else knows.
And sometimes -- sometimes, I have to wait -- sometimes, I have to wait for something to come or just kind of -- it's hard to explain this, but it's -- it's something that I recognize now. I didn't when it first happened to me. But it's something that's hard to describe because it's something that -- that I'd never seen before.
ZAHN: Of course.
T. DEBAGGIO: And all of a sudden, there was this thing before me. The way it got started...
T. DEBAGGIO: I went out to the...
J. DEBAGGIO: Greenhouse.
T. DEBAGGIO: To the greenhouse and all of a sudden I realized I didn't really know what this was. And it was strange to me because it was -- you know, the day before, it wasn't that way. And it was -- it was kind of scary.
ZAHN: Not only scary for you, but scary for Joyce.
T. DEBAGGIO: Of course.
ZAHN: And, Joyce, beside the day-to-day challenge of living with those gaps in memory, you also have to live with the knowledge that so much of the life that you two led together has now been erased from Tom's memory. Joyce, what is that like for you?
It's disorienting. And sometimes I get agitated that he's -- he needs me to repeat things. And he was so bright before. And simple things, he needs me to -- to explain to him. And that wasn't that way before. And he's gotten to the point now where one of his greatest pleasures, reading, is not really available to him anymore, because he stumbles over words and it makes it more difficult for him. And he's always anxious and scared, really.
ZAHN: Sure. And it requires patience all the way around in your household.
I wanted to share with our audience another piece that Tom wrote, another passage from the book. And this one is particularly blunt. He writes: "At first I viewed the diagnosis as a death sentence. Tears welled up in my eyes uncontrollably; spasms of depression grabbed me by the throat. I was nearer to death than I anticipated. A few days later I realized good might come of this. After 40 years of pussyfooting with words, I finally had a story of hell to tell."
ZAHN: Is it hell, Tom?
T. DEBAGGIO: Yes. It's awful. It's difficult to describe it because you don't know it. But if you got up one day and didn't know where you were, that would be sometimes what happens to me.
J. DEBAGGIO: Or in the middle of the night he'll wake up and not know where he is.
T. DEBAGGIO: Yes.
ZAHN: And, Joyce, one of the things that you learn from family members, and I just heard this from Maria Shriver, who was in the studio a couple weeks ago, whose father has Alzheimer's. And she said the hardest part of all this is learning to accept that a loved one has it. I imagine you've gone through a whole host emotions, haven't you?
J. DEBAGGIO: Oh, yes, I've been -- my psychiatrist told me two weeks ago, she thought I was in denial still. So -- and in some ways, I think denial works, because it keeps you going.
I think, without denial, I don't think I could make it.
ZAHN: And, Joyce, just a quick final thought on what it has meant to you to be able to read some of what Tom has written that has been so honest and so candid.
J. DEBAGGIO: He's always been that way, and to have it on paper -- he's always been a writer. And I'm just immensely grateful that the drugs he's been taking have -- I'm sure have helped him. And to be able to read it and to go back and to go back and read it again I'm sure will be very helpful. It will keep me in a way knowing him.
ZAHN: Well, it is powerful writing and has touched all of us who have look at his books.
Thomas and Joyce Debaggio, thank you for opening up your home life us to tonight. Thank you.
J. DEBAGGIO: Thank you. Thank you.
T. DEBAGGIO: Thank you.
ZAHN: And when I come back, the daughter of Dear Abby will tell us about her mother's battle with Alzheimer's.
And a little bit later on, an intimate view of the Reagan years through the pictures famed photojournalist Diana Walker.
ZAHN: For decades, American newspaper readers have turned to Dear Abby for advice, but, until two years ago, they did not know that the woman behind Dear Abby Pauline Phillips, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease back in 1996 and her daughter had taken over the column.
Jeanne Phillips joins us from Los Angeles to tell us how her family is handling her mother's illness.
Good of you to join us. Welcome, Jeanne.
JEANNE PHILLIPS, "DEAR ABBY": Well, thank you very much for having me.
ZAHN: How is your mom doing, first off?
PHILLIPS: My mom is doing fairly well.
Her physical health is terrific. And her personality is still intact. She's -- she still has her sense of humor. And she loves to sing. And her memory is very poor right now, but the core of her personality is intact, and that's a blessing.
ZAHN: What has been the hardest thing for you to accept about her illness?
PHILLIPS: I've lost my best friend.
My mother and I have been very, very close for many years. And she's my hero and my sounding board. And I've lost -- I've lost my best friend.
ZAHN: Every family member who's going through that says basically the same thing you are and right now and how difficult it is sometimes to deal with the fact that physically they look terrific, and mentally, the decline is just so strung out. In your family's case...
PHILLIPS: It's progressive.
ZAHN: Yes. You did not go public with it for a while. Why was that?
PHILLIPS: Because my father didn't want my mother to know.
She knew that something was wrong, but she never -- she never confided in me that something was wrong. The closest that she ever came was -- was in the early 1990s. I was up at the house doing some editing with her. And as I was leaving, she grabbed my hand and she said, Jeanne, I want you to make me a promise. And I said, what's that, mommy? And she said, I want you to promise me, no home.
And I said, what do you mean? And she said, promise me you'll never put me in a home. And I said, is something wrong? And she said, oh, no, no, no, no, no, Jeanne, but I want you to promise me. And I did. I promised her.
PHILLIPS: My mother's being cared for at home in Minnesota. She has 'round-the-clock caregivers, thank God. They are angels on earth. They're wonderful women. But she's at home.
ZAHN: You've lived up to the promise you made to her.
(CROSSTALK) PHILLIPS: Our family has. It isn't just me.
ZAHN: Yes. I understand that.
What is the best advice you could give to families who are wrestling with many of the same decisions you've had to make over the years?
PHILLIPS: Contact the Alzheimer's Association. Do it quicker than I did, because once you -- once you start talking to other families who have a family member who's sick this way, you start to hear the same story over and over again, just as you've heard the same story over and over again on this broadcast.
And being able to talk, to ask questions and get answers, and to -- to talk to other people who are experiencing the same thing and to talk out your frustrations is very therapeutic.
ZAHN: Well, I know what you have shared publicly over the years has been extremely helpful to families dealing with many of the same obstacles you have.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
ZAHN: I think the shared experience is very comforting.
Jeanne Phillips, thank you for your candor tonight.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
ZAHN: And coming up next, Ronald Reagan through the eyes of photojournalist Diana Walker. Her unparalleled access captured the vitality of America's 40th president.
Then, state funerals leave unforgettable images in our minds. We're going to look at the ceremony and the symbolism later on.
ZAHN: This week, we've listened to some of Ronald Reagan's best speeches. And last night, we read his personal letters. Tonight, we look at the pictures.
Our next guest, Photographer Diana Walker, was able to gain uncommon access to the Reagan White House. And she used her camera to change the way we see the presidency.
ZAHN (voice-over): She could capture a very public figure in a very personal way. Diana Walker's photographs brought out the character of a president, making him seem as real and approachable as a neighbor next door.
Walker's work for "TIME" magazine spanned five presidencies, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. She was one of two "TIME" photographers to regularly cover the White House from 1984 to 2001. For a photographer, access is everything. And, as Diana Walker spent more time in the White House, she saw things no other photographer was allowed to see.
She was there when President Reagan came home from cancer surgery. And she was there when, for the first time, Nancy Reagan entertained the Soviet first lady, Raisa Gorbachev. President Bush gave Walker unprecedented access, letting her spend an entire day with him.
And as the Clintons weathered the Monica Lewinsky storm, they let Walker in on some tender moments. Diana Walker moved on to other assignments when George W. Bush was inaugurated, but she left her mark on history, reminding us that the man who holds the most powerful office in the world is still a human being.
ZAHN: And photographer Diana Walker joins us now.
DIANA WALKER, PHOTOGRAPHER: Oh, thank you, Paula. It's great to be here.
ZAHN: What a piece of history you've witnessed. Share with us tonight some of your fondest memories of Ronald Reagan.
WALKER: Well, he was special, there's no question about it. For a photographer, it was lots of fun working in the white house in those days too, because the Reagan administration was very, very good at setting up photo opportunities that were gorgeous, because they understood Michael Deaver, so instrumental in this. They understood the better that the president look, if he was lit well, if the situation looked great. He would look great.
ZAHN: This is a beautiful photo.
ZAHN: This is on the U.S.S. Iowa.
WALKER: Yes, this was the celebration of the centennial of the Statue of Liberty. And there they were under the guns as the National Anthem played. They look like they're about to break out in dance like in a Busby Berkeley musical. It was just simply gorgeous.
ZAHN: And the next image we're going to see is an image that a lot of us, as reporter, keep in mind, and that was his constantly putting his hand up to his ear, what did you say?
WALKER: Well, some people have commented that he did that sometimes on purpose, because he didn't want to answer a question. But the press saw him quite seldom, so we used to call out to him and ask him questions. And I know that he didn't hear well at all, and I was very familiar with that. And I think Mrs. Reagan did him a great service, because when she was with him and the press would call to him, she would answer for him after a certain number of attempts, because he didn't want to keep saying, I can't hear them, what's that?
WALKER: And so she would say, well, the president will talk about that later, when we get to Camp David or whatever. And I know sometime people thought why is she answering?
Well, I know why she was answering, she was doing him a huge favor, in fact.
ZAHN: She has great grace in the process of doing it.
ZAHN: There is another really powerful image we're going to share with our audience now, and I believe it is of the president consoling a family member of someone lost in the Challenger disaster.
WALKER: In those years, those two terms, and tragedy struck the United States several times in a very dramatic way. One of them being the loss of the space shuttle, Challenger. And at that service, I noticed always in all the services that we attended whether it was for the Marines who were lost in Lebanon or the Challenger families, the Reagan's had a way of consoling the loved ones of those families in a very meaningful way. They -- you could see how moved the president was, and Mrs. Reagan, and you could see the families respond to them in a very powerful way.
ZAHN: We're going to take a look now at more of your pictures, and I believe this was taken when the president was on his way, I guess, to visit Nancy Reagan in the hospital after her surgery, is that correct?
WALKER: Yes, after her cancer surgery. And you know, I showed this picture to Mrs. Reagan, and she said, oh, that's so sweet. She said you've been holding back on me, something of that sort. He was carrying a huge big get well card signed by everybody in the White House, and in the right hand, he had a basket of cookies for her. And there was just something so poignant about this man from the back walking towards the helicopter.
ZAHN: And there's another picture, where the Queen of England...
WALKER: Oh, yes.
ZAHN: ...is not too far from the president, and he was is getting quite a laugh out of what she was saying, what transpired?
WALKER: Well, the Reagan's invited the queen to visit California, and it was during a terrible, terrible rainy season. And the rain was awful. And the queen was a wonderful sport, she put on her Wellington Boot. Santa Monica was going -- falling into the ocean. I mean, it was really terrible rain. And at state dinner that the Reagan's gave, the queen in San Francisco, she stood up in all of her finery, as you see in that picture, and she said, you know, I think that when the puritans came to the new world, they brought many of our customs from our country. Pause. But I had no idea they brought rotten weather, too. Well, you know, President Reagan loved a good story, and it was as if the queen had one upped him this evening. She really made him laugh.
ZAHN: She did. That was terrific.
Diana Walker, thank you for sharing your memories with us tonight.
WALKER: Well, it's my pleasure.
ZAHN: We appreciate it.
When we come back, preparing for a president's final trip to the nation's capitol. We'll tell you what you is planned.
And there is extraordinary security in place for this weeks event. All that coming up right after the break.
ZAHN: Tomorrow the body of President Reagan will be flown from California to Andrews Air Force base out of Washington. And then a procession will accompany the body to the U.S. Capitol where the former president will be the 10th American president to receive a state funeral.
ZAHN (voice-over): Years in the planning. It's been three decades since our last presidential state funeral. President Reagan's will combine pageantry and dignity, and like President Kennedy's funeral, not a moment will be left to chance.
LETITIA BALDRIGE, FMR. WHITE HOUSE SOCIAL SECRETARY: The funeral showed America at its very best, and I know the Reagan one will be the same way, because Mrs. Reagan cares about those details, too. And she's having it done according to all the other great funerals in the White House.
ZAHN: There will be those unforgettable images. Reagan's flag draped coffin will be taken up Constitutional Avenue to the Capitol Rotunda by Caisson. Like Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy, his casket will be followed by a riderless horse with boots backwards in the stirrups, a symbol of the lost rider. F-15th in missing man formation will streak the sky. President Reagan laid plans for his own funeral, and he knew what he wanted. He requested his coffin enter the Capitol Building by the west not the east, to symbolize his political roots in California.
And asked for "Amazing Grace" to be played by bagpipe when he's laid to rest, at dusk, at his presidential library.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: The president's body will lie in state in the Capitol for 24 hours until the national funeral service for him on Friday at Washington National Cathedral. Many of the men and women who were his colleagues in leading the world, including Britain's Margaret Thatcher. The two conservatives developed a close bond over the years. And 10-years-ago, Reagan asked her to speak at his funeral. Her eulogy will be on videotape. A series of strokes has forced her to give up speaking in public. All of this will wrap up Washington's part in honoring the 40th president. It will be a rare and historic tribute.
Here's national correspondent Bruce Morton.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The artillery battery is practicing, 21 guns they'll fire. The musicians are practicing, slow marches they'll play. The Caisson is ready. The riderless horse. Images we remember if we are old enough from other sad times. In the depths of the Capitol in a crypt labeled Washington's tomb, though he was never buried here, they're getting out the catafalque on which the casket will rest. It's pine first put together hurriedly for Abraham Lincoln, America's first assassinated president.
It looked like this back then. It's been used often since by Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, of course, another murdered president. And it has traveled. Justice Thurgood Marshall lay in repose on it in the Supreme Court building. Ron Brown, Bill Clinton's first secretary of commerce, laid in repose on it in the Commerce Department. He died in a plane crash doing his job. State funerals vary, lying in state in the Capitol needs the consent of Congress and the family. They bury in details we remember through the years, anyone alive in 1963 won't forget John Kennedy's children. Kennedy's funeral was more than most an occasion for grief.
He was young, his journey incomplete. Lyndon Johnson's was a reconciliation, he was a president embittered by Vietnam. But they all have something in common, too. As the preparations remind us, music, horses, and with guns patrolling. State funerals are kind of national pause and a moment to reflect on where we are and on the men who got us there. If America is a journey toward the land Thomas Jefferson saw in the Declaration of Independence where all men are created equal, the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are moments to think about the journey and the Americans we mourn and admire and are grateful to. These are occasions when we honor our dead. We pause and grieve and say thank you with all the glitter and solemnity we can muster. Your country, we say, is it your debt.
ZAHN: That was Bruce Morton reporting.
One person who witnessed history at two presidential funerals is Jack Valenti. You may recognize him as the lobbying voice of movie industry. But 40-years-ago he worked for the Kennedy and the Johnson administrations. In 1963 he accompanied the body of JFK on the flight from Dallas to Washington. And 10 years later, he was on a plane carrying President Johnson's body from his funeral in Washington to Austin, Texas. Jack
Valenti joins us from Washington. Always good to see you.
JACK VALENTI, FMR. AID TO PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Jack, tell us a little bit more about that flight back from Washington to Dallas when you were on board with the body of the president?
VALENTI: It's a day that's seared in my memory. I remember every minute of it as it's carved there never to be erased. It was a flied back where tragedy and grief and wonder flooded that plane like a river breaching its banks. I don't know how Mrs. Kennedy managed to do it. One second she's with a jubilant husband, laughing before a wonderfully hospitable crowd, the next minute the back of his head is blown off and blouse is spattered with his brain matter and blood. And she stood beside President Johnson as he took the oath of office on that airplane. And one of the most famous pictures I suppose of the 20th century which you showed just a moment ago.
So coming back was -- I guess it was a spectacle of grief more than anything I can think of. It was somber. And one of the things I was so impressed with was the coolest man on the airplane, the one in most repose, as if he had put under tight harness all of his galvanic energies was Lyndon Johnson. I guess he figured that since he was now president he had to be as calm and as composed as he could in order to make some decisions. And one of his biggest decisions was that he was not going to leave Dallas until the flag-draped coffin of the 35th president was brought aboard, even though he was admonished by people in Washington to get into the air in fighter planes from Bergstrom and Barksdale field. We're going to escort Air Force One back.
ZAHN: And Jack, it was 10 years later, you found yourself on Air Force One, this time accompanying the body of Lyndon Johnson on his final trip home from Washington, D.C. to Austin, Texas.
What was that like?
VALENTI: Well, I think Liz Carpenter, staff director to Mrs. Johnson when she was in the White House. And Mrs. Johnson and I are the only three people, I suppose, in the history of this country that have ever flown on Air Force One with the coffin of the 35th president, and then 10 years later flying on the same Air Force One with the flag-draped coffin of the 36th president in the rear of the plane. It's not a distinction, that frankly, I admire but it did happen in a macabre way. Again grief, because Kennedy's death was a total surprise. Shocked, and blurred the memory of the nation. And Johnson was a surprise, though, he died at a young age, 64, and he did have heart problems, it wasn't decreed that he died that young. So both of the tragedies came out of blue. President Reagan, of course, as everyone knows has been inhabiting the earth for the last eight or nine years, but not of it, in some kind of another world, so his death was not unexpected. But, nonetheless, people mourn, as they should.
ZAHN: And let's talk a little bit about the mourning process, you expect to see unfold particularly in Washington, starting early afternoon tomorrow. What is it that you think the American public should be tuned into when you looked at majesty and the history of these state funerals?
VALENTI: Well in the long storied history of the United States, only 41 men have held this office. There are 42 presidents, but one was president twice, Grover Cleveland. So 41 men. What the president does, we only have one president at a time. So the president brings the country together. And Reagan's death is an opportunity for everybody to say we love this country, and we love this president, and we want a mourning to make sure that this country continues on to what Reagan used to call, always stay that "City on the hill."
ZAHN: And that's what we'll be celebrating in some sense through the shared experience.
Jack Valenti, thank you for joining us tonight.
VALENTI: Thank you, Paula, very much.
ZAHN: When we come back from a break, not all of the guns will be ceremonial in Washington. Security is being tightened for the president's funeral. And then of course, Americans gather to honor the former president. We're going to look at how we've mourned other leaders coming up.
ZAHN: The G-8 summit began today with some promising news on Iraq. The U.N. security council has unanimously approved a resolution that endorses the transfer of sovereignty, and authorizes a U.S.-led force to stabilize the country. President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed the news from Sea Island, Georgia, where leaders of world's top economic powers are meeting. Security is especially tight for the three-day event. Only summit participants are allowed on the island.
Well, security is also extremely tight for President Reagan's funeral later this week. The event is massive and involves a lot of people. As homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve reports guarding the funeral will be a difficult and complicated task.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The regal National Cathedral, a place of worship, surrounded by security fences and law enforcement, a jarring image.
JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is a sad commentary when the observation of a memorial service for a former president of the United States must be labeled a national security special event. Such is the fact of modern life in Washington and such is the nature of the war against al Qaeda. MESERVE: Dozens of federal, state and local agencies with the Secret Service in the lead are still scrambling to cement in place a security plan for a series of events expected to draw 20 heads of state and hundreds of other VIPs.
STEVE SIMON, RAND CORPORATION: There's no doubt it's a delectable target. You look who's there. Why not? Seems great. On the other hand, it's not, you know, just a matter of targeting strategy and who you'd like to kill, but it's a matter of whether you can kill them, and that's another story.
MESERVE: Authorities are moving to harden targets, but say there is no cookie cutter security template for an event involving California, multiple sites in and around Washington and large crowds.
CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPT.: There's only so much we can do, this is an event that is historic in nature. People are going to want to come out and see it.
MESERVE: In the nation's capital expect a heavy police and military presence with canine teams, sharpshooters, surveillance, Coast Guard patrols, extensive road closures and increased railroad security. In California new flight restrictions will be imposed Friday around the burial site. Unexpectedly large crowds at the Reagan Library are leading officials to revise upwards their estimates of how many will pay their respects in Washington. Each person entering the Capitol will go through magnetometers.
They will not be able to bring cameras into the Capitol, they should keep their cell phones off or not have them, we'd prefer, and not to bring bags and backpacks and those type of things.
MESERVE: The Secret Service already handling another national special security event, the G-8 economic summit in Georgia, is stretched but insists the Reagan funeral will be safe and secure.
It helps that the agencies involved work together often and did so recently on the dedication of the World War II memorial. But homeland security officials worry about balance, nobody wants the security to overshadow the ceremony. Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.
ZAHN: And in just a few hours, the final mourners will stream past the president's casket in California. This gives you an idea of what it looks like at this hour there. We'll learn more about who these mourners are and why they're there after this break.
ZAHN: Today, more than 80,000 mourners in California viewed the casket of the nation's 40th president. You're looking at live pictures from Ronald Reagan's presidential library in suburban Los Angeles. Mourners came from miles around in busloads and lined up for blocks outside of the library. And among the thousands who came to pay their respects was one of the men who would be president, or at least wants to be, Senator John Kerry. He was escorted through a side entrance to a room holding Reagan's coffin. Kerry said a brief prayer before placing his hand on his heart.
Because of the turnout viewing hours have been extended now until late tonight as Americans mourn a president they hold close to their hearts.
ZAHN (voice-over): A steady stream of people, 52,000 in the first 24 hours, have passed through the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to pay their final respects to our 40th president. They're people from all walks of life. Some old enough to remember Reagan the movie star. Others too young to remember his presidency. They all waited in line, many for as long as seven hours, yet still, they felt the need to be here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came from Phoenix, and I came over here because President Reagan is one of my heroes, and I felt like this is a historic occasion, I wanted to be part of, and show my respects to the man.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're here to remember President Reagan, and the president that he was, and our children are here for the history.
ZAHN: Pausing briefly in front of the flag-draped coffin, some shed tears. Others pray. A Scout troop paid their respects. At times like this, the passing of a president, a beautiful princess, a favorite son of Camelot, a NASCAR legend, a national tragedy. At times like this, public expressions of personal grief, albeit for a brief moment, unite us, through a shared loss.
ZAHN: And that is it for this evening. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. Tomorrow night, a CNN special report, please join me, Wolf Blitzer, Judy Woodruff, and Anderson Cooper for coverage of the state funeral of Ronald Reagan. Our coverage gets started at 4:30 p.m. It will run till 9:00 p.m. Coming up next, Larry King's exclusive interview with former President Ford and his wife Betty. Again, thanks for joining us tonight. Have a good night.
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