SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - They came quietly yesterday to gaze upon the curved, limestone memorial that marks the grave of former President Ronald Reagan.
After a week of mourning, visitors continued to pay homage to the nation's 40th president and his widow, Nancy, on the first day the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum overlooking the Simi Valley opened to the public since his death June 5.
All the tributes and speeches were over. Instead, visitors laid flowers and American flags on a table, signed condolence books and admired the hilltop view of a green farm valley ringed by golden mountains. A coastal fog to the west prevented a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean beyond but afforded a cool breeze under the warm sun.
By 11 a.m., an hour after the library opened, nearly a thousand people had filed past the gravesite that is shaded by oak trees. Standing behind a railing, they gazed upon a curved wall etched with words Reagan once spoke:
I know in my heart that man is good
That what is right will always eventually triumph
And there is purpose and worth to each and every life.
Throughout the grounds stood reminders of Reagan and his presidency - a piece of concrete from the Berlin Wall, lush grounds replicating the East Lawn of the White House, a marble marker engraved with the presidential oath.
Reagan's headstone, to be completed this week, will serve as the centerpiece of the 20-foot-wide memorial.
"If you had asked me a week ago if we would have more than 100,000 people here, I would have said no," said the library's director, R. Duke Blackwood. "This past week clearly exceeded our expectations."
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