CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - When he was alive and preaching, the Reverend Dr. Billy Graham lived as though he were a citizen of the world for whom there were no state lines or international borders that could stop his evangelical mission.
It makes sense then that, in death, Rev. Graham would draw people from all over. Hundreds are expected to attend his funeral on Friday, March 2, in Charlotte.
Thousands will probably stop to watch Saturday morning as the 100-mile procession brings Rev. Graham's body from Montreat to his library in Charlotte.
"We're telling people if they do wish watch the procession go by, get your vehicle completely off the roadway. Do it safely," said Trooper Ray Pierce. "After the procession passes, when you're merging back into traffic do that safely."
Troopers on motorcycles and in patrol cars will lead Graham's body and relatives from I-40 to Hwy 321 to I-85.
"We will have troopers and local officers on the on ramps to stop traffic as we're going by that way we can get the procession through these different counties that we do have interstates on as quickly as possible." Trooper Pierce said. "So we will have some lane closures tomorrow as the procession moves."
Full Details: Procession route announced for Rev. Billy Graham
Sheriff Alan Cloninger says as the procession makes its way through Gaston County, a deputy and an officer from each local department will man intersections.
"People get upset. They're ready to go some where but hopefully with the magnitude of bringing Rev. Graham home - what he meant to this community not just the Charlotte area but this whole area - they'll be understanding and be respectful for what he has done for us," Sheriff Cloninger said.
Even the busy Hwy 321 at the I-85 interchange will halt.
"It's a really busy area," the Sheriff said. "It will be backed up with traffic and trying to time it where the procession is not delayed and it continues on because they have a timetable they're trying to keep but we also gotta make sure it gets through the county safely."
The Gaston County Sheriff's Office says deputies and local officers will be setting up 30 minutes or more before the actual procession makes it through.
"We'll be monitoring the procession as it's coming into Gaston County," said Assistant Chief Deputy Garry Williams. "And what we'll look for is hopefully a five minute window from the time they reach an intersection we need to shut down so we don't shut it down too soon and create more of traffic back log than we have to."
Rev. Graham's funeral is shaping up to be a grand event - contrasting with the humble way he lived his life.
Highway Patrol says they're pulling troopers from other districts to help out the Charlotte District. Troopers on the executive protection detail are standing by for orders.
"For the actual funeral itself, we will have a lot of out of town dignitaries," said Trooper Pierce. "A lot of governors have expressed interest they're coming to the service so we will provide security for them."
Trooper Pierce says the state will pay for Highway Patrol's security costs from a general fund that is set aside to handle events and emergencies.