SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – Throngs of mourners continued to pay their respects to former President Ronald Reagan Tuesday, forcing organizers at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (search) to extend the viewing period by four hours.
Enduring traffic jams, long waits for shuttle buses and hours spent standing in line, an estimated 106,000 mourners had filed past Reagan's flag-draped casket in the 28 hours after the viewing began, officials said Tuesday.
Nancy Reagan, resting and preparing for funeral events in Washington, D.C., watched the scene on television at her Bel Air home in Los Angeles, said Joanne Drake, chief of staff of Reagan's office.
"'It is unbelievable what I am seeing on TV,"' Drake quoted the former first lady as saying. "'The outpouring of love for my husband is incredible."'
Mourners didn't seem to mind the inconveniences. "He gave us eight years of service," said Keith Godliman, 50, of Santa Clarita. "It doesn't hurt for us to wait eight hours for him. He deserves us to wait eight hours for him."
Many spent the time sharing memories of Reagan and making new friends.
"It was really something. There was a kindred spirit out there as we waited," said Linda Peterson, 49, of Temecula, who left home with her son, Lee, 23, on Monday night.
Their 110-mile trip went swiftly until the last four miles to a local college parking lot, which took four hours to cover, and then there was a 4 1/2-hour wait to board a shuttle bus to the hilltop library.
"I wanted my son to know exactly what an honorable life is all about — a life of service with such passion," Mrs. Peterson said.
The flow of mourners was interrupted briefly when Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry arrived. Standing before the casket, he made the sign of the cross, placed his hand over his heart, then left.
Michael Reagan, the former president's eldest son, told Fox News the family was deeply moved and touched by the respect. He said the common men and women who have been coming to Simi Valley are true testaments of who his father was and what he would have appreciated most.
Former President Ford said in a televised interview Tuesday that Reagan was "a great statesman whom we miss very badly. ... He was a firm believer in the strength of the United States and as a nation that was going to be the leader of the free world."
The nation's 40th president died Saturday at age 93.
The viewing at the library in the hills west of Los Angeles was the first event in a week of national mourning. The body will be flown to Washington on Wednesday to lie in state at the Capitol, followed by a national funeral on Friday and a return to the library for burial at sunset.
Duke Blackwood, the library's executive director, said that at the conclusion of the national funeral, the bells of the National Cathedral will ring 40 times and churches nationwide will join in.
The body will then be flown back to California for burial at the library Friday evening. Blackwood said the inscription on the headstone will read "Ronald Wilson Reagan," with his date of birth and death.
Nancy Reagan, who accompanied the body to the library, received a message Tuesday from Pope John Paul II (search) expressing "deep gratitude" for her husband's commitment to the cause of freedom.
Among the celebrities who came to the library Tuesday was actress Bo Derek, who said she became a Republican when Reagan became president, citing his belief in smaller government and optimism.
"It's something when you first see the flag on the casket," she said. "I'm stunned. He was such a great man."
The period in which Reagan's body was to lie in repose at the library was originally supposed to end at 6 p.m. Tuesday, but the overwhelming turnout forced an extension to 10 p.m. More buses were added to the shuttle fleet to handle the crowds.
Jesse and Joni Garcia of Woodland left their Northern California home at 6 p.m. Monday and finally walked past the casket at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.
"It took five hours for the last five miles of the freeway," said Jesse Garcia, 52. They spent two more hours in the parking lot before boarding a bus.
"It's a lifetime event. I wanted to show my gratitude. I wanted to show my love," he said.
"He came home last night and said, 'We're leaving in 15 minutes,"' his wife said.
"I knew they'd think I was nuts," her husband added. "But he's a homeboy — our governor, our president."
Humbert Cabrera, 38, of San Diego, said while waiting in line: "He should be on Mount Rushmore. He was one of us. He lifted us all."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.