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Inaugural Committee Apologizes for Ticket Fiasco

Ticket holder Rev. T.T. Terry, of Dallas, looks into the purple gate area yesterday. Despite arriving at 5:30 a.m., he was denied entry. (AP)

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which was responsible for planning and executing Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony yesterday, apologized today for keeping thousands of ticket-holders outside the security gates, causing them to miss the ceremony.

In a statement, the committee said it "deeply regrets" the foul-up and will conduct a thorough examination of what went wrong. The Washington Post reported today that at least 4,000 ticket holders, primarily in the Purple and Blue sections, were denied entrance, despite waiting for up to five hours in cold temperatures.

"Many of the problems appear to have been due to the unprecedented crowds, and a huge flow of unticketed people toward the U.S. Capitol and into the 3rd Street tunnel from the National Mall, after it had reached capacity very early that morning and was closed," the committee said. "We realize how important this inauguration was to so many people and the difficulties they endured to get here, so once again we deeply apologize to those guests who were not admitted."

There were 240,000 tickets issued in all for the reserved seated and standing areas closest to the Capitol, where the swearing-in took place around noon. Planners had been estimating giant crowds of up to 2 million people would descend on the Mall, and police and other estimates after yesterday's event have ranged between 1 million and 2 million based on satellite photos and other information.

The congressional committee said the number of tickets that were distributed was based on historical precedent and an analysis of how many people could safely fit in the reserved area, which required ticket-holders to pass through security gates.

But ticket-holders, especially in the Purple and Blue areas, report chaos, with unresponsive guards, few officials keeping order and giving directions, and panic near the start of the official festivities at 11:30 a.m.

Update 9:30 p.m.: Be sure to see the latest news.

By David Nakamura

By David A Nakamura  |  January 21, 2009; 3:19 PM ET  | Category:  Security , Swearing-in Ceremony , Tickets
Previous: More on Purple Ticket Fiasco | Next: Ticket-Holder to Pelosi: Capitol Police Chief's Comments a 'Slap in the Face'

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How do they explain not opening the Purple Gate in time for the ceremony, blocking people on the previously announced pedestrian through streets and having no crowd control or appropriate signage? That had nothing to do with large crowds. If they had opened the gates in time, had crowd control and signage as well as enough staff, they could have gotten us in. We got there before the crowds and still barely made it in. Crowds are simply not the issue. I think there should be a special open house at the White House for people with purple tickets. Something to make up for this.

Posted by: MVTer | January 21, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

It's good to hear someone taking responsibility for this debacle after the ridiculous and false finger-pointing from the Capitol Police and the Seargent-at-Arms. I spent 5 hours in the silver ticket line before getting through security at 11:30. I have no idea why the guards were not letting people in. Look at the satellite photo taken at 11:18 am (http://specials.washingtonpost.com/inauguration/satellite/). It shows that the silver ticket area (the two sections immediately behind the reflecting pool) were less than half full only 12 minutes before the ceremony! Meanwhile, look at the huge throng of people on the silver ticket line on third street south of the mall who could not get in. What a fiasco! I'm so glad that the Post is reporting this story.

Posted by: harpsm | January 21, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

MTVer is right. It was not the crowds, it was lack of crowd control. A cop with a megaphone could have solve the whole problem, instead they were inside the security zone not doing much.

Posted by: ualec1 | January 21, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I was down there. It was only 500,000 or so.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | January 21, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

The article notes: "Many of the problems appear to have been due to the unprecedented crowds, and a huge flow of unticketed people toward the U.S. Capitol and into the 3rd Street tunnel from the National Mall, after it had reached capacity very early that morning and was closed."

As someone who was in the 3rd Street tunnel for three hours, my personal experience was that everyone around me had a purple ticket. To suggest that the problem was that people in the tunnel did NOT have tickets is simply wrong. I urge the Post and the inaugural committee to examine the facts.

There were thousands of people ahead of us and thousands of people behind us, and they all waited patiently. There were people from all over the country -- Montana, Michigan, New Jersey, who traveled a very long way and did not get in because of incompetence and total lack of communication. I hope the inaugural committee does investigate this. But once again, based on my experience, the people who waited in line had purple tickets. To suggest otherwise is to ignore the fact that mistakes were definitely made and need to be corrected next time.

Posted by: jeffreysteger | January 21, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

The people in the 3rd St. tunnel were NOT unticketed. We all had tickets; we were directed to go there because we had tickets. We were then abandoned.

Posted by: dtmky | January 21, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

From the statement: "Many of the problems appear to have been due to the unprecedented crowds, and a huge flow of unticketed people toward the U.S. Capitol and into the 3rd Street Tunnel from the National Mall, after it had reached capacity very early that morning and was closed to additional unticketed entries."

Could someone please diagram that 'sentence' and let me know what they are trying to say? I was on the mall (technically on 1st St) in the Blue section which was nowhere near capacity. They still don't actually address the problem of people with tickets not getting in.

Maybe they mean the 3rd St Tunnel reached capacity? That would make sense having read all of the comments on the related story...

Posted by: bayma1 | January 21, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Whoever is to blame, this is an absolute shame, since many of those denied access worked so hard on the campaign and didn't even have time to go get a spot somewhere else on the mall once they were shut out.

I wholeheartedly agree that everyone of them should be given a special event at the WH and I'm sure BHO would be up for it once he gets wind of this. But I am thankful that this was one of only a relatively few number of problems on an otherwise amazing day.

Posted by: pcb28 | January 21, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

"after it had reached capacity" - ugh! Why do they keep saying that? I was in the silver-ticket area; we never reached capacity! I was marveling at how sparse it was in the back half of the area behind the capitol's reflecting pool, even during Obama's speech. It is just so frustrating that they are using "over-crowding on the mall" as an excuse for denying people entry when there was so much space around us.

Posted by: superaura | January 21, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Isn’t Obama one of those who say that we shouldn’t sacrifice to many of our liberties for security?

Posted by: dcn1 | January 21, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Alas, I too was one of the "Blue People." Traveled to DC from Cincinnati with excitement and soaring anticipation of witnessing the historic Swearing-In.

The signage from Union Station was horrible. Although we had plotted out a route ahead of time to the Blue security area, in the throngs, it was difficult to find. Finally a Capitol policeman pointed us in the right direction, and we hit the "line" at 8:30 am. The crowd was jovial and good-spirited, but by 11:00 it hit us that we weren't going to make it in. When the mob behind us surged forward and I got face-planted into a tree, we knew it was time to bail.

We heard the cannons from D Street, and knew Obama had just become President. A spontaneous street party of dejected Blue People erupted, and we cried and hugged strangers. So, all was not lost.

After that, we made it over to The Dubliner hoping to see some TV coverage. Hey, at least we beat the crowd, right? Arrived just in time to see Bush's helicopter leave, joined a hearty chorus of "Na Na Hey Hey," and first learned about our Purple Ticketed Brothers.

Solidarity!! Free The Blue and Purple People!!

It wasn't the memory I anticipated taking home from the Inauguration, but it's certainly one I'll never forget. Epic Fail, though, PIC. How on earth did you screw this up?

Posted by: CincyJen | January 21, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I had silver ticket access....and the worst part was that because there was NO ONE explaining anything to the droves of people in line- a simple "you might want to think about trying to get on another part of the mall b/c if you are still in line at XXX time, you will not make it to your section" would have been very much appreciated. I decided after the line moved about half a block in 40 minutes that I should just make a run for 14th street....and barely even seeing a monitor was great- but NOT when I was promised, and designated for a standing area near the swearing in. AND so much for security- security did NOTHING when peopel started jumping over barricades just to get within eye sight of the monitors...NOTHING...and when people were penned in like cattle afterwards, security and the police just stood around on top of vehicles smiling, chatting, smoking, etc...meanwhile, the closer to the barricades people were- they were getting trampled and forced over trhe barricade by people shoving them to get out of the way.

Posted by: swirlywand11 | January 21, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Bitter_Bill, are you Rain Man?

to the Committee: I accept your apology.

Posted by: gratefolks | January 21, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

BFD. They already ruined the day for thousands.

Posted by: betsydriver | January 21, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I cannot agree enough with the comments that are posted here. I and my family had tickets for the Blue Standing Area. We arrived at the gate shortly after 8AM. While we where blessed with admittance to the ceremony around 11:30AM, we did witness a complete failure of security procedures on the Blue Gate. Capitol Police officers assigned to the gate were seemingly indifferent to attendee questions and requests for assistance and information. The security barriers where inadequate to control the crowd, as attendees created their own entrances at times. The cordoned-off area preceedig the Blue Gate was entirely too small to contain the crowds. There were too few gates for security screening and entrance to the Capitol grounds. And, lastly, too many roads were closed to allow citizens to approach the Capitol Grounds for the ceremony. All of this leads one to think that the Joint Committee and those responsible for security really was intending to keep as many people away as possible. Fortunately for everyone in line, the vast majority of the citizens at the Blue Gate were delightful and jovial. I cannot say the same for the Capitol Police. As for Terrance Gainer's observation that everything was a success, please remember that he was the deputy to former (mercifully) DC MPD Chief Ramsey, who thought it appropriate to arrest corral citizens into pens during high-profile events in the district during his tenure at the head of the District's law enforcement arm. I can see that Gainer has brought Ramsey's philosophy and practices with him.

Posted by: tlc20011 | January 21, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Also, just to add... how can the organizers keep insisting the Blue, Purple and Silver areas reached capacity, when the satellite photo right here at the WaPo shows that is not possibly true??

It really is a testament to the good nature of the crowd I was in that nobody was hurt. Absolutely no credit can be given to officials, since none could be found. It was a disaster waiting to happen, it really was.

A simple bullhorn to give us information would have been nice.. instead, we relied on internet reports from our cell phones. And why weren't we re-routed over to the Orange security area, which was fully clear by the time we left the mob and passed it? The security officers there merely shrugged at us heartbroken Blue ticket-holders.

It truly is embarrassing that the PIC failed to pull this off... don't they seat the Capitol Lawn every four years? What, no institutional memory remained?

Posted by: CincyJen | January 21, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

The Capitol Police and the PIC have blamed their barring of the purple ticket holders on everything from a dangerous last-minute crowd surge to ticket-less line crashes. Bull. With purple ticket in hand, I stood in line in front of the purple ticket gate from 6:45 am to 12:30 pm. The gate never opened. The Capitol Police never provided any information. The crowd, which remained orderly throughout the ordeal, could neither see nor hear the Swearing-In. And, satellite pictures show that the purple section was empty.
My (purple ticketed) cousin had come from Alaska to watch the ceremony and was terribly disappointed.

Posted by: Gigi3 | January 21, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

The official analysis from the PIC is pure hogwash. If they issued tickets based on "historical precedent" one would think that the number of tickets produced was appropriate for the space allotted. So for example, if I have 50 sq. feet of space, I can only fit 10 people in the space. Keep in mind that the Purple Section was standing room only!! My cousins were in the purple line and were denied entry after traveling from St. Louis. I think two things happened that's worth looking into:
1.) The PIC was greedy and printed way too many tickets. I don't believe that the PIC ever consulted Congressional offices on ticket demand from constituents. What appears likely is that the PIC offered tickets to inaugural donors that were in excess of the normal and historical allotment for the given space.

2.) What's even more of a concern is that I do not believe that the Secret Service, DC Police, and National Guard were ever on the same page for yesterday's event. I asked a question about general admission to the mall area and got 3 different answers from each department. It's like they were not even using the same communications equipment or something. We are fortunate that there were no major issues related stampeding (which nearly happened I think a few times) but someone had better figure out how all of our emergency response folks can talk together for major events like these.

Posted by: dftcalibur | January 21, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

My partner and I had silver tickets and showed up at the designated 4th and Independence Ave checkpoint around 8:45 a.m. After we followed the line around SW DC for over a mile and couldn't find the end of it, we determined there was no way we would ever make it into the ticketed section by the time of the swearing-in. We proceeded with a mass of desperate people to 15th and Independence and watched the proceeding on a Jumbotron with the masses near the Washington Monument. I have spoken with at least two other silver ticket holders who either gave up or never made it in, so it appears the problems were just about as severe for the (much larger) silver section as they were for the purple and blue sections. One thing that caused me to give up is that there were no port-a-jons for the people waiting in line--they were all within the secure area. That was another major oversight.

Posted by: jeffdutton | January 21, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

3 comments about this story:
1. Now out-of-towners know what it's like for those of us who live/work in DC with incompetents like those directing traffic every day of the week.
2. President Obama has been warning us that times are tough; perhaps this debacle is just a foreshadowing.
3. The next time anyone says "government should take over health care," remember the government clowns tasked with overseeing the Inauguration events and ask yourselves whether they are competent enough to manage the health care system.
Just some things to think about.

Posted by: linguist64 | January 21, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

My daughter and I traveled from NC, missing two days of school and work, to attend the inauguration. We got on the metro at 6am, arrived downtown at 7:15am and waited in what police were telling us was the blue ticket line for over 4 hours.

When we finally could see the blue ticket gate we were shocked to realize we were not really in a "line". Funny that for over four hours police did NOTHING but tell us to be patient and stay in line.

My daughter and I worked on Obama's campaign and attended rallies in NC. There are not words to explain the disappointment we felt when we were standing over a block away without any speakers when President Obama was sworn in. What a shame! Shame on whoever was in charge.

If other areas were having the same problems as blue I would say the reports are GROSSLY under-estimated on how many people with tickets were shut out. I have NEVER been in crowds like that before in my life and every person had a blue ticket.

Posted by: samanthaking | January 21, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

That apology is pretty much worthless. The fact is the people in the tunnel did have tickets. We were required by officials to present our tickets before we were allowed in line. This obviously did not continue once all security officials abdicated their roles and responsibilities. However, a majority if not all those in the tunnel had tickets. Further, they are still pointing fingers instead of taking responsibility. The reason tens of thousands of people were denied entry was not because of the crowds but because a complete a total lack of organization and competence.

Posted by: Eryn1 | January 21, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

It was a mess. The PIC was pretty organized but still, they could have briefed their volunteers better. The biggest problem, however, was the surprise blockades by the Secret Service. The original plans allowed for people (particularly ticketed people) to cross the parade route at various points to reach the mall from the north. Secret Service changed the plan and gave no clear directions of how to direct traffic (hence the traffic jam at 3rd street bridge). This isn't a failure of BHO (hello, he wasn't even president in the morning). It was a communication failure particularly due to SS. Their top priority is the safety of the president(s) but they did not fully consider the ramifications of their extra security measures. They'll never give an apology but hopefully they'll consider their mistakes and communicate with other cops and PIC better in the future.

Posted by: lesframboises | January 21, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that there was a failed assumption that people without tickets would not try to get close to the Capitol and would instead just gravitate away from the 3rd St tunnel, Fed Ctr SW area.

My 2 cents. In the future, when you have 1.5 million in a defined area and a NORTH perimeter (Penn Ave.) that is completely closed to through traffic--consider the people's entry and exit options. The concrete jungle of Southwest DC was a nightmare. Some more open fences and foot traffic paths to the East and West would have moved more people and not compromised security.

Posted by: jaho | January 21, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

These people have witnessed first hand what a Bureaucratic Big Government can do for them, yet they Vote for people who want more Big Government to rule over more aspects of their lives.

They are lucky they weren't in line for their Government supplied Healthcare. Yet most of these idiots will keep voting for Bigger Government Liberal Socialists.

Posted by: ignoranceisbliss | January 21, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

The police were rude and everything that they have said didn't just happen for the blue and purple ticket holders it happened for the rest of us also. Anyhow I was there and I saw it.

Posted by: msvon60 | January 21, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

5 of us from Phoenix Arizona braved the cold and crowded street supposedly leading to the entrance gates - sometimes scary, especially for people in wheelchairs and others getting scrunched but never got in. We had nothing but rumors to go on. No police, fire, or other coordinators. No signs, directions, or marked routes. No indication as to whether the gates that were closed were going to reopen. The only thing police/fire did was try to get emergency vehicles through the crowds of people creating further danger and the potential for stampeding and injuries.

Because of the joyous occasion, the crowd acted responsibly and we can be proud of that. But it really was bedlum and unbelievably frustrating.

Alas, overall it was great to be in DC for a weekend of patriotic goodwill. I will destress at home here in phoenix in our delicious 80 degree weather!

Posted by: guybusy | January 21, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Silver Ticket Holders: If you want to know why you weren't able to get in, look at the GeoEye satellite imagery taken at 10:30 am on 1/20/09: The huge crowd (black mass of ants on Maryland and 3RD) is you -- having been led through the huge, oh! so prominent, "Silver Gate” marked on the published Washington Post Map, and the official insert that came with your ticket, you were directed into a Dead End!! Instead of turning left on Jefferson, as indicated on the map (and as indicated in the WP as "Secret Service has said this is the only silver screening point) you met barriers! And the DC police kept adding more and more to that packed crowd!! No amount of apologies can really soothe the cold hands and feet and emotional disappointments, especially for those who traveled so far to be undone by a bureaucracy that can only say, "... a few did not get in." Satellite imagery does not lie! Thousands upon thousands did not get in. My offhand estimate is that "mass of black ants" to be 20,000+ people ... but that is a guess. Someone with more ability can probably do a calculation of how many packed people it takes to fill that area. So now you know ... and you know it was recorded! The truth cannot be hidden!

Posted by: jgradie | January 21, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that the first denial from the Capitol Police was that they let everyone in and now they are saying that not everyone got in because of the crowds. I fear for the safety of DC if a real threat occurs. These people will leave us to fend for ourselves.

Posted by: MVTer | January 21, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe that this even happened. Everyone around me had tickets..the now infamous purple tickets. We spent money on hotels and planes and had everything organized down to a T. My family of 5 stood in line for over three hours. For the thousands of people there was only one cop. But plenty of cops, fire trucks, emergency vehicles went through. NO ONE stopped to talk to us. No bathrooms..we were told if you left to use the john you wouldn't get back..according to the cop. We endured the long wait with the need to relieve ourselves rather than be seperated.
The crowd was borderline angry which made us concerned for our safety. We got out of the tunnel and moved as fast as we could toward Union Station to get away from the crowd. We regrouped took stock of ourselves,went to the bathroom,got some food watched the inaguration on TV.Took an earlier train out of the city. Glad we left! We heard the stories of others form the tunnel who also decided to go there for safety reasons. What a waste...we are so so heartbroken. Yes the holders of the purple tickets should have something done for them. We are still holding to them for proof we there. As asisde I saw a man screaming into the channel7 TV crew that his daughter was among the missing in the crowd...just awful.

Posted by: stevecolby57 | January 21, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I was a purple ticket holder who was barred from entering the inaugural ceremony. Out of concern for a possible stampede around 11 am, I was able to reach my cell phone and placed a 911 call to the D. C. Metropolitan Police, asking them to respond to an angry mob at C Street and Louisiana Avenues, NW. The dispatcher informed me they would come right over but never arrived. However, two minutes after my call one of the female police officers inside the fence who had been just standing around picked up a bullhorn and turning to the crowd said two times, “Remain calm,” and then turned around again and continued to ignore the people. Rather than calming the crowd, it only fueled their impatience. At that point I heard people in the crowd saying the only reason they did not storm the fence was because of the threat of the armed security guards on the roofs of nearby buildings. Besides my guests from Iowa, I was surrounded by a couple who flew over from Australia, a couple from Miami, a couple from Idaho, a man and his teenage son from Vermont, etc. They had spent a lot of money to travel to attend the inauguration. I heard African-American people shake their heads in resignation and painfully declare they thought that once Obama became president they would no longer be excluded from our country’s historic moments. Obama campaign staffers were sobbing, saying their field offices could have better organized such an event. Some tall men in the crowd took photos which indicated the size of the crowd was much, much larger than the 4,000-5,000 identified by Terrance Gainer reported in the Washington Post today. From my arrival at 4:00 am, there was never any staffing whatsoever at the Purple Ticket entry gate. Anither issue -- there also were no port-a-potties near our waiting area either. I was glad to read that an investigation will take place of this incident. However, it should be an outside investigation, as it is clear that Terrance Gainer is already underestimating the scope of the problem. The worst part of the problem was clearly the security officers who acted as though several tens of thousands of people were invisible. It was the most degrading experience of my life.

Posted by: JustBrowsing1 | January 21, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Please PIC! Let us know what happened with the parade tickets too!?! The four I bought were useless at the appointed time and I paid $25 for each. Was this always a scam?

Posted by: karenkersting | January 21, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

We were 2 of the people stuck in the tunnel yesterday. There is no excuse for this happening. I just called Senator Feinstein's office and complained. They were trying to make up excuses. Come on...1000 people? Everyone stuck in the Tunnel of Gloom yesterday know that there were more like 40,000 people in there. Why would they issue that many purple tickets????? the ONLY thing that kept that from becoming a complete front page disaster was the good will of the people. I watch the YouTube videos of it, and it makes me cry. I am so happy to be back in California after that experience, and have nothing be respect for my fellow tunnel dwellers..but the DC police?....what an incompetant bunch.

Posted by: mchoco | January 21, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Some apology. "Many of the problems appear to have been due to the unprecedented crowds, and a huge flow of unticketed people toward the U.S. Capitol and into the 3rd Street tunnel from the National Mall, after it had reached capacity very early that morning and was closed." In other words "It's not our fault, but we apologize." Nice use of the passive voice there, too.

Posted by: maralenenok | January 21, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

And after the swearing-in, there was horrible confusion on how to get to the streets north of Pennsylvania Ave. All maps directed the crowds to 16 and then 18th Street. Then, as the crowd makes it to E Street, they are stopped by soldiers who then allow a hundred or more coach tour buses leave a parking area. The crowd grew larger and was quickly several thousand people pushing forward. As was the case in other postings, the soldiers and police were rude and unapologetic at how they were treating the "guests" of DC.

Posted by: jmvesq | January 21, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

It's INEXCUSABLE that the Joint Congressional Committee and their Security cadre "deeply regret" the fact that they DENIED access to tens of thousands of people yesterday and runined the experience for all of us... But what do they care? They were all seated in the VIP area, so it didn't impact them? Next time someone from the DNC/DSCC/DCCC calls me and asks for money-- I'll be sure to rudely tell them 'NO' right before I launch into my opinion of their Inaugural failings. Oh yeah-- and THANK GOD there wasn't a national security incident on the Mall because Secret Service, Police, Nat'l Guard could NOT have handled it... Great to see not much has changed since 9/11. We all would have been walking out of the city accross the 14th Street Bridge again.

Posted by: EinAlexandria | January 21, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

How could the number of ticketed attendees be a surprise? They knew how many tickets were distributed. I understand that the un-ticketed crowd was unprecedented. However, the inaugural committee has filled the ticketed areas for inauguration for years -- although 9/11 changed security measures. Regardless, they should know exactly how many tickets were issued and how many people could fit in the ticketed areas. And they should have been prepared for those numbers and been able to control the crowds. There should have been no surprises in the ticketed areas -- it certainly should not have been "unprecedented" in the ticketed areas. The explanation in the statement from the joint committee makes no sense.

Posted by: eroberts | January 21, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I definitely am sympathetic to those who were ticketed for the swearing in and who weren't admitted. I had tickets for the inaugural parade and waited for hours in the bitter cold with thousands of other people. We didn't see any volunteers and we saw very few police or national guard. No one did any crowd control or gave out any information. The line moved slowly forward, but I think it was because it went from 4 people across at the back to 25 people across at the front - that and it moved forward a little bit because people got out of line! This is a shame and the empty bleachers along the parade route on TV are a testament that people were unnecessarily turned away. What a shame!!!

Posted by: cpf218 | January 21, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

In order to get into the 3rd street tunnel around 7AM you needed to show MPD your purple ticket in order to get in line.

Posted by: NYCer1 | January 21, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

My daughter and I had tickets for the parade bleachers, for which I had paid dearly. Although our seats were on the south (Mall) side of Penn. Ave., we approached from the north to avoid Metro complications and going through the Mall and because all the published maps of the inauguration showed crossovers at several points including 12th St. where our seats were. As it turned out, there were no crossovers, even though we were assured by no end of volunteers in red hats that there was one at 11th St. At 11th St. we were redirected to 7th St. where we were redirected to 3rd St., where we finally got to the south side of the Mall through the 3rd St. tunnel. We were lucky enough to make it to the edge of the Mall for the swearing-in ceremony and then tried to get over to the parade route, only to be stopped at Constitution Ave. which had been put off limits by the Secret Service. Ultimately, we never got to our seats, and I gather from friends who were watching on TV that there were many empty bleacher seats on the south side. I can only echo everyone else's frustration and sympathize with those who were completely shut out. I would say, though, that the police I encountered were unfailingly polite and clearly sympathetic, but we did get a lot of wrong info from people who were supposed to know, and we ended up walking basically the entire secured perimeter trying to get south of Penn. Ave. and then north of it to get back to Union Station. Clearly the security of our new President was paramount, but it does seem as if there was basically no priority or thought given to getting ticketed people to their ticketed locations. If that was to be the case, tickets should not have been issued in the first place, and people would have been able to plan accordingly (and differently).

Posted by: kschoonover | January 21, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

My daughter and I had tickets for the parade bleachers, for which I had paid dearly. Although our seats were on the south (Mall) side of Penn. Ave., we approached from the north to avoid Metro complications and going through the Mall and because all the published maps of the inauguration showed crossovers at several points including 12th St. where our seats were. As it turned out, there were no crossovers, even though we were assured by no end of volunteers in red hats that there was one at 11th St. At 11th St. we were redirected to 7th St. where we were redirected to 3rd St., where we finally got to the south side of the Mall through the 3rd St. tunnel. We were lucky enough to make it to the edge of the Mall for the swearing-in ceremony and then tried to get over to the parade route, only to be stopped at Constitution Ave. which had been put off limits by the Secret Service. Ultimately, we never got to our seats, and I gather from friends who were watching on TV that there were many empty bleacher seats on the south side. I can only echo everyone else's frustration and sympathize with those who were completely shut out. I would say, though, that the police I encountered were unfailingly polite and clearly sympathetic, but we did get a lot of wrong info from people who were supposed to know, and we ended up walking basically the entire secured perimeter trying to get south of Penn. Ave. and then north of it to get back to Union Station. Clearly the security of our new President was paramount, but it does seem as if there was basically no priority or thought given to getting ticketed people to their ticketed locations. If that was to be the case, tickets should not have been issued in the first place, and people would have been able to plan accordingly (and differently).

Posted by: kschoonover | January 21, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

If you issue 75,000 tickets to the purple area, and you have 3 hours to fill the purple area, how many people do you have to let into the purple area each hour? The calculations should have been that simple, and someone should have been paying attention to the fact that the targets weren't being reached, AND THEN DONE SOMETHING TO BRING US IN. So frustrating!

Posted by: ambler1 | January 21, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

How could the crowds have been larger than expected? The estimates were for as many as 2 million to show up and the "experts" are estimating it was less than 2 million total. If anything, the crowd was technically smaller than expected.

The argument that it was because of coats and broken generators don't fly. It's January and people make backup plans for a reason!

Gainer is at fault here, and he needs to apologize to the people for failing to protect and failing to serve. Aren't those the two main objectives of the police?

With all the barriers, there was nothing to keep lines orderly, no one to give information, and no redistribution of human resources to deal with a surging problem. After having the gate close on us and realizing we wouldn't see Obama speak, I grabbed my 11 y/o sister and we ran past the Capitol to a local hotel (the Hilton) to see the event on tv. We passed the orange gates on the way and saw the gate was still open, with NO LINE AT ALL and a bunch of bored looking cops standing around that gate.

Why weren't those cops sent to the Blue gate? Also, larger than expected crowds or not, why weren't there any speakers placed near the gates? We couldn't see nor hear anything.

I also agree with those who are also upset at how the Secret Service closed off all the roads that we'd been told would be kept open.

The PIC bears some blame as they did give out more tickets than usual. How do I know this? Because Congressional and Senate offices gave out as many tickets as they did for the Bush inaugurals, plus the PIC had staff going around DC handing out Blue and Purple tickets to people! Thousands of them! I saw dude give them out at Ben's Chili Bowl and already guessed oversized crowds could come as a result.

Overall, this was a massive SNAFU with many people left (literally) in the cold.

Shame on Terry Gainer for blaming this on the people, shame on the Capitol Police for proving their ineptitude (yet again), shame on the Secret Service for closing off streets we'd been told would be kept open, and shame on the PIC for printing out too many tickets. The entire experience left me extremely frustrated.

Posted by: nwrepresent1 | January 21, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

There was room inside the barrier at 14th street on the mall, and the crowd we were in actually bent and the large traffic arm that closed off that section, and people went pouring through to fill up that section. As we were following this crowd into that area, we could see the Guard Troops rushing to close up the gate again. When we got to the center of the Mall, we could see across back beyond 14th street, thousands of people were tightly packed behind the barriers back by the Washington Monument, but there was plenty of room to mill around where we were just in front of the American History Museum. It was a shame someone didn't let more people in that area.

Posted by: flwrldy63 | January 21, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I refuse to accept this apology. Not on my behalf, but on behalf of the grown men and women I saw in tears after they realized they'd spent thousands of dollars and time and energy to witness this unprecedented event. Little did they know they'd be facing unprecedented incompetence. Over and over I hear them saying the failure was due to excessive crowds...as far as I'm concerned the crowds were LESS than they expected! Also, the ticketed section is the one aspect that is known. They know how many tickets they printed, they know how many were given out and they know, based on past inaugural events, how many people (and COATS) that space can hold. I had a blue ticket, everyone around me had blue tickets. One volunteer with a megaphone could have saved thousands of people grief and heartache. And I do believe there should be restitution, but how? People who got through the gates still have their tickets--security didn't take them. So there is no way to distinguish between who got in and who didn't. It's just sad.

Posted by: NYDCchick | January 21, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

To those defending PIC, come on now. If there was an over-issuing of tickets, it would be their fault. More to the point, PIC was a debacle on many levels (anyone else try to pick up tickets from Will Call, reach PIC on the phone, get a return email about UPS never showing up). This was PIC's show for the President and they had an obligation to provide leadership. They are not absent blame either.

Posted by: nothankspurpleticket | January 21, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Disappointed silver ticket holder here. My mom (who flew in from California) and I managed three metro line transfers to reach our designated Security Gate stop well in advance of the ceremony only to then walk over a mile to find the end of the line. The security gate was supposed to open at 8am. It still wasn't open at 9am. At 9:30 the line began moving slowly, up and down, around the corner and then...just vanished! It was ridiculous. No one directing crowds. No signs. Only rumors (all too true it turned out) that the chances of us getting in were slim to none. Thank goodness I'm local and knew the best bet was to hoof it up to the Mall, find an open patch of dirt near the Washington Monument and catch the ceremony on a Jumbotron. We barely made it due to a crush of people and little or no traffic direction. The answer I consistently got from security personnel was, "I really don't know, M'am." Way more than 4,000 ticket holders were shut out yesterday. Bleecher seats along the parade route were empty too! I hope the Feds who ran this clam bake know how very lucky they are that everyone downtown was in a mood to celebrate, not riot.

Posted by: kn1559 | January 21, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

I spent 2 1/2 hours waiting in the massive crowd on 3rd and D, and I approached 6 different uniformed officers to make sure that the line that I stood in was the RIGHT line for the BLUE ticket. I got 6 different answers, and at the end of 2 1/2 hours, I was told that the line I was waiting in was the line for the Parade, not the Inauguration. In total, it took me more than 5 hours to make it inside the blue ticket area, and had I not gotten in line at the time I did, I would have DEFINITELY missed the event. The volunteers and officers need BETTER TRAINING about BASIC information like where each colored ticket was suppose to go! And more updates to the crowd that is on the verge of being trampled! All in all, Metro police did a VERY POOR job of keeping the crowd in control and in the right direction!!!

Next time, instead of using your megaphone to hold an impromptu American Idol auditions (which went on), INFORM THE CROWD WITH INFORMATION and UPDATES ABOUT THE EVENT!!!

Posted by: nycvote | January 21, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Disgusting screw up. Those responsible can pass the hat and send cash money to compensate the afflicted.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | January 21, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Devestated... that is the only way I have to describe my feelings after yesterday's experience. We drove in from Kentucky in order to say, "We were there for a moment in history." We did everything right. We arrived early (before the gates opened), waited patiently in line for four hours, and then realized at 11:30 a.m. we would never make it in. The reports that there were only 4,000 of us is completely innacurate. There were at least 10,000 in the purple area alone. No police... no crowd control... no signage. The crowd remained calm until panic set in that none of us would make it through the gates in time for President Obama's speech. People started waving purple tickets and chanting, "LET US IN... LET US IN." I was there for the moment... now a missed moment. I have never been more disgusted with planning for an event. This was a complete and total failure by those in charge. You knew how many people received tickets, you had helicopters in the air... so you knew you had a major problem at the gates... and you had cops telling people, "We told you not to come." What a shame. I can understand if this had been an issue at the Mall... but seriously... organizers handed out the tickets... and apparently never had a plan to get us in.

Posted by: SoSorryKY | January 21, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

people traveled thousands of miles and paid a lot of money to be there only to be turned away. and yet not one single arrest. is this not symptomatic of a police state?

Posted by: wa_idaho_lonewolf | January 21, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I agree with all that the apology is BS and classic bureaucratic nonsense. This was not a matter of too many tickets or people without tickets. This was a total failure of communication to the ticket holders. What happened to all those tens of thousands of folks who volunteered and were told they were not needed!??! How about a few of them to tell people where to go or what to do?!?! How about telling the cops what in the world was going on?

The truest statement anyone has made, and something to bear in mind, is it is really a testament to the crowd and the fact that everyone was on their best behavior due to the nature of the event that, miraculously, no one was hurt. Had this been a sporting event, if even a few people had sported a bad attitude, someone would have been killed. For the record, there was also space in the purple section. Somehow (I have no idea how) my group got in despite being misdirected and standing for hours in what was effectively a corral at 1st and Louisiana streets which is WHERE WE WERE TOLD TO GO! Not a sign, not an advisor, nothing. Totally unhelpful or, even worse, frequently misdirecting police. How about I set off the metal detector on my way in (probably my handwarmers) and NO ONE DID ANYTHING ABOUT IT! We got in around 10:15 and the section got fuller but there was still room for at least a couple hundred more people. The satellite images of all the space in the silver section makes me sick, and also shows that they are simply lying about what went wrong here. I totally agree with another event to help those who didn't get in feel better about it. But tell that to my friend's in-laws who came from Colorado and got shut out of the blue section. Does the PIC maybe want to pick up their airfare for the make-up event (if it ever even happened)? This is despicable.

Posted by: enviro1 | January 21, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

One more THANK YOU to the Post for aggressively reporting this story. I was afraid it would be shoved under the rug with all the "what a great job we did getting all these people to this historic event" storyline I'm sure those in charge want everyone to hear.

Posted by: enviro1 | January 21, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

There is no excuse for what happened yesterday. It had nothing to do with the crowd and everything to do with the incompetent people that planned this event. I arrived at 6:30 a.m. only to be turned away. Capital Police were useless: there was no management or directiion. Many people with tickets spent thousands of dollars traveling to DC. Someone should be fired.

Posted by: jradice81 | January 21, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

"The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies deeply regrets that some ticket holders to the ceremonies were not able to get to their ticketed sections, primarily in the purple and blue zones."

Some ticket holders? SOME?? How about THOUSANDS of ticket holders. When I left the blue line at 11:15 there were thousands of people outside that gate alone.

I'm glad they have issued an apology, but I certainly hope that this isn't the end of it. Someone among the planners should get canned over this mess.

Posted by: PattiBLOGojevich | January 21, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I think that Obama should invite these people in for a private visit........it's the right thing to do!!

Posted by: lek91091 | January 21, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Gainer also alleges that the problem within the Purple and Blue areas is attributable to people wearing bulky coats and therefore, taking up too much space and causing the area to fill up quicker than anyone anticipated. I cannot believe that people like Gainer continue to be looked upon to plan and lead major security events in this city. I will pray extra hard now that "the big one" doesn't occur, because these folks cannot protect us or manage the aftermath.

Posted by: tlc20011 | January 21, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

It is appalling that they would imply unticketed people were the problem.

I, for one, walked that entire tunnel and passed a multitude of people who had tickets (I didn't); in fact, we were heading the opposite way because we were told unticketed people could get through the other side of that tunnel.

Every line we saw was because there were ticketholders, not unticketed people.

I got onto the mall at 11am, having started at Union Station by 8:30, and as we passed all those people we said, "there's no way they're going to clear all of them in time."

I can't believe that was actually true, and I really feel for everyone who got stuck.

But the right people should be held accountable - there were no directions, no cops organizing, no appropriate signage (one sign doesn't count), and all anyone wanted was direction. It's irritating beyond belief that they (DC) couldn't be prepared, even after telling us how many people they expected.

Posted by: nagatuki | January 21, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Inaugural Committee, I accept your apology. Obviously the importance of properly screening everyone admitted to ensure the safety of those already inside takes precedence.

I'll save you some time though. Here's how you can fix the problem:

1. Rope or fence off lines to keep people in the correct area and keep people from cutting ahead of the line or rushing the gate. If 240,000 tickets were issued, expect to rope off lines that can accommodate 240,000 people. The gates themselves were fenced in, but there was NOTHING to control the lines outside the security gates.

2. Place one officer or volunteer with a megaphone at each gate to walk up and down the line and keep people informed. Have them be honest; if you know by 10 am that not everyone will be able to get through security, advise people to try and get to the non-ticked areas on the mall. I'm sure many of the ticket holders that arrived by 6am would rather have viewed the inauguration from farther away than to be trapped in a crowd unable to see or hear anything, and receiving no information on the situation.

Posted by: kayci86 | January 21, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

College football games have better crowd control than what I saw, frustrated, at the purple ticket line yesterday.

There were NO stewards, NO officials in charge of the purple line. No helpful signage.

What about all these volunteers that were being trained to help on the day? Where were they?

Get the Disney people to organize this next time. They know how to handle crowds with intelligence & grace. We could have had port-a-loos near the line, plus people selling hot drinks, even street entertainers to keep it fun as we waiting in the freezing temperatures.

It says a lot for the goodwill and humor of my fellow ticket holders that things didn't turn ugly. We were patient and orderly.

I was right next to the barrier through which we could see the security tables and officers who stood, often idle--as there seemed to be an inexplicable failure to process people in an orderly and steady way through the (inadequate) gate.

It was only when a young man scaled the fence to shout at the police that they grudgingly came over to listen to the grievances and then do nothing--except instruct him to climb down from the fence.

I saw one officer with a megaphone, but no one ever addressed the line to give us useful information.

It was unbelievable incompetence.
As others have written, the police seemed utterly disinterested.

Our group sang patriotic songs to keep our spirits up (while we still had hope). Then one black man waiting near me say: "They sure sucked the HOPE out of me today...."

I traveled from Southwestern France where I chair a Democrats Abroad chapter to attend the swearing-in, having spent last year coordinating a worldwide project to support the Obama campaign called the Obama Bridge Project. I was utterly heart-broken not to get in, having waited in line since 8.15am. Next to me was a Democrats Abroad Super-Delegate for Obama and DNC member who didn't get in either. Nor did the Chair of the Strasbourg France Democrats Abroad chapter. Our friends and fellow Democrats back overseas are waiting for the wonderful stories of our great experience of making the pilgrimage to this historic inauguration.

Imagine our feelings!

I agree with those who suggest the White House stage some event to compensate those who were so bitterly disappointed on this historic occasion. I also think we should all write to Nancy Pelosi, whose name is on my purple ticket, as Chair of the Congressional Inaugural Committee and ask for some redress event.

At least Barack Obama is President, which is the main thing.

Posted by: meredithwheeler | January 21, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I were caught up in the Blue Section mess. We had felt so fortunate to be able to attend with tickets... After arriving at 6:30 a.m. standing in line for 4 1/2 hours, and in a compressed mob for 3 of those hours -- with no bathroom access and no food stands nearby --in the freezing cold, we would have traded places with the people in the unticketed areas watching jumbotrons quite happily. That said, we did make it into the blue section at 11.

Maybe we were lucky because at our arrival metro station (Federal Center SW) they pointed us right to the line where we needed to be. I know Federal Center had some overcrowding problems so some people in the blue section were let out there instead, and that's I'm sure where they had some confusion.

The major problem IMHO was the complete lack of planning at the security lines. The line we got in was initially self-policed (about 15 people wide). We were no more than a block from the security gate. People waited peacefully until 8 a.m. Then there was a mad rush from behind us to the gate, and instead of a peaceful line it was a mob scene. There were no police or officials anywhere except ones who came through and forced us to move when a car came through. We felt like cattle. We were treated as such. There were NO attempts to create and enforce a peaceful line.

In addition, it was crazy that the gates did not open until 8. Perhaps they could have advertised that the gates would not open until 8 (to keep people from coming even earlier than we did) and then surprise everyone and open early. I hope they learn the lesson that it would be far better to have people waiting "comfortably", with portajohns, inside the ticketed area than smashed together in a mob for hours waiting for security to open.

That's what I'd like to hear the Congressional Committee acknowledge.

And we were lucky. We got in. And we also live in the DC area. I feel so sorry for the people, particularly out of towners, who were turned away. And I am SO glad I did not bring my 6 and 8 year old daughters.

Posted by: Susan_in_VA | January 21, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Just the beginning of many heartbreaks for the Obama Cool Aid drinkers.

Posted by: L1ncon | January 21, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Only the JCCIC (Joint Congressional Committee on Congressional Ceremonies, chaired by Senator Dianne Feinstein D-CA) "prints" tickets to the swearing-in. They were printed last summer (by the Government Printing Office). Everything I've read said 240,000 tickets -- the same as 2001 and 2005.

The JCCIC gives an allotment of tickets to the PIC (Presidential Inaugural Cmte) -- typically around 80,000 tickets - the rest go to Congress.

It is outrageous that so many who paid so much money, used vacation days and endured the journey (wasn't easy for locals, either)to be witness to such an historical occasion, were locked out.

The belated apologies from Senator Feinstein's office and the Capitol Police ring hollow. The satellite photos of the Mall do not support their excuses. And after months of talking about 3, 4 or 5 million potential attendees, the fraction of that who showed up should have been accomodated.

Instead of being treated as guests of the city and honored citizens of the Republic, I felt that the public was regarded as intruders -- unless you were in a limo.

Posted by: Gidgmom | January 21, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

After hearing the accounts of so many disappointed ticket holders, I'm thankful I didn't have tickets to the reserved sections of the mall. Friends in the reserved section reported overcrowding and a fear of getting trampled, and still needed to watch the jumbotrons to see anything. And those were the lucky ones who made it through security.

Since we didn't have tickets, my mom and I walked across Memorial Bridge from Virginia. Pleasant volunteers (many of them girl and boy scouts) greeted us every twenty yards or so on the bridge, and while there were a lot of people on the West end of the mall, it never felt overcrowded or unsafe. We certainly had better views of the jumbotrons and more freedom of movement than people on the Eastern end of the mall. Plus, leaving after the event was a piece of cake, with few barriers to navigate and the bridge reserved for pedestrians.

With regard to the headcount...despite thousands upon thousands of people gathered on the West side of the Mall-- at the foot of the Lincoln, around jumbotrons to the sides of the reflecting pool and near the Korean and Vietnam Memorials, and around the WWII Memorial-- few of the camera shots seem to show these areas. (To be fair, some of the areas are obscured by trees.) My guess is that there's been an under-count of the crowd in attendance yesterday.

Posted by: kmcnyasha | January 21, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse


Barack Obama is the greatest liar in history (no wonder he is an excellent lawyer!) During his campaign, he told lots of hope in future for America if he was elected, but now he warns Americans of oncoming darker economy and not to put too much hope in his promises. He promises a big plan to reduce budget deficit but his inauguration ceremony this January will be the most costly in history (50 millions) while the nation is in deep depression, as well as his presidential campaign (600 millions), which was far more than his opponent John McCain's. He swears to clean up Washington DC, but he failed to first clean up his homestate Illinois, one of the most corrupt state with the scandal of Governor Rod Blagojevich, who greatly helped Obama to win his state senate seat in 1996, 1998, and 2002. And his favorite slogan is "Yes, we CAN", yet he himself CANNOT quit smoking at all !!! (Each year about 1.3 million American smokers quit successfully).

Posted by: TIMNGUYEN1 | January 21, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Please investigate why so many groups traveled so far and practiced so long to perform to empty parade bleachers! We left Union Station at 8:45am and walked to four parade checkpoints in the next hour to be told that ALL checkpoints had been closed. While the policeman were trying to be polite and helpful, they clearly had no real information and no communication. So sad for the thousands and thousands of people standing in line trying to get to the parade route and for the groups that later performed to empty bleachers. Haven't we learned anything about law enforcement communicating with each other?

Posted by: poparoni | January 21, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

I was also on the west end of the Mall near the Washington Monument and things were very smooth on foot walking from Arlington (where there was plenty of on-street and off street parking BTW). The major problem was the lockdown of Penn. Ave., meaning that no one could get from the heart of downtown to the Mall on foot. It also doesn't make any sense to screen the standing room ticketed areas but not the unticketed areas directly to the west. Someone needs to explain to the security industrial complex that sometimes less is more.

Posted by: dsk097 | January 21, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I and five of my friends were also in the mess at First and D streets (about a block from the infamous Purple gate at C and Louisiana). As everyone has reported, at about 8:30 or 9 AM, the police crammed a cruiser into an already tightly packed crowd -- it was clearly dangerous, and if the crowd had not been so goodnatured, with stronger members trying to make space for smaller folks, people could have been hurt. We were directed by a police officer to wait in the 3rd street tunnel -- which was almost a Mad Max experience in regards to the number of people, the tight quarters, and the lack of security/order.

We just decided to ignore orders and wander around, eventually finding the unruly scrum of ticket holders at the purple gate that was in no way connected to the 3rd street tunnel line. In the end, we got in -- but mainly by luck and a healthy distrust of the DC PD.

This was all preventable. Better signs would have helped, as would have some moderately trained officers; it was, for all practical purposes, chaos that the police seemed unable or unwilling to manage. Pitiful and shameful behavior.

Posted by: scenestealer | January 21, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

The Capitol Police and other organizers should be ashamed of how they handled the blue section. As one of the thousands who stood in line for hours, I endured capitol police officers who just stood there and ignored repeated questions from people waiting in line about why the line wasn't moving. Chief Gainer's excuse is also ridiculous -- saying that the section was full and they could not let any one else in. Just look at the satellite photo on this site and you'll see the blue section with plenty of open space and thousands (closer to 10K than 3 or 4K) waiting by the security gate to get in. What added to the frustration was that the orange security gate was completely empty but none of the capitol police officers allowed any body to use that screening section. In my opinion, someone needs to be held responsible for this unacceptable failure.

Posted by: jheier | January 21, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

What a day of ups and downs! I am a silver ticket holder who feels fortunate to have only traveled from NYC and who DID eventually get in at 11:57 as they were introducing Biden.

This was due to a combination of extreme luck and the kindness of the bus driver who let me in desperation use his on-board bathroom because there were NO porta-johns ANYWHERE between Union Station and the INSIDE of the gates. My son was almost in tears when I told him we'd have to give up after all those miles of walking (having been redirected at least 3 times) and hours of waiting. There were no jumbotrons or speakers for those in line who were clearly not going to get in.

The officers were incompetent at BEST. One manning a line kept chanting, "No questions, no questions," and threatened a woman who felt desperate for some direction.

The crowds where I was remained surprisingly good humored and rational even as the panic that they would not see or hear the ceremony rose.

Also, I wanted to comment on the parade delay. Somehow, after the swearing-in ceremony, we found our way to a viewing spot for the parade. I understand it was upsetting when Kennedy collapsed... but it was very cold, and whoever was minding the time should have been more understanding that running 65 minutes late for the parade under such conditions was not acceptable. Again, there was never any information at our location on if it would ever begin.

One very skinny girl next to me (a young african-american girl) was crying because she was so cold, but wouldn't leave because she had been frozen out of the mall for the ceremony and felt desperate to catch a glimpse of Obama.

After 3 hours MORE (following the Oath) in the cold, we had to leave before the parade began to catch our train. At Union Station we ran into another mob who did not know why they had been locked out of Union Station for hours with no police explanation.

We arrived home last night safely, but slightly dispirited from the train full of sad stories of the day.

Posted by: cwaadv03 | January 21, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Just to add my Blue Gate experiences to the record (my wife and I were within 20 feet when they closed the gates, got in line at 7:30), we need the Inaugural Committee to acknowledge that there were many more than just 4000 people barred, and that all of us were put in danger by their failure. Most of the crowd dispersed earlier, once they knew it would be impossible to get in. A few thousand who were very close remained, hoping for security to start letting us in. To echo others, the problem was not the size of the crowd, but the complete lack of organization, management, and communication. This was government incompetence at its worst, suffered by many of the people who had loved it most, through volunteerism, donations of time and money, and hard work. Weren't things supposed to change? Yes, we were denied partaking in this historic event, denied from even witnessing or hearing it happen. We were herded into pens like sheep and locked up for the duration. It was a humiliating indignation. But they endangered our LIVES, and it is only by the grace of the ticket-holding crowd that nobody got hurt. The problems were not caused by overcrowding. Overcrowding was caused by their incompetence. The problems were caused by their utter lack of preparation for the throngs of ticket-holders everyone knew would be attending. They need to do more than apologize. They need to make amends. Remember how Obama's oath was flubbed? Do it again! And let us witness the PROPER oath!

Posted by: seth76 | January 21, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I was a silver ticket holder who arrived at the 3rd St. gate just before it was scheduled to open at 8AM after an hour walk across the Memorial Bridge. There was a massive mob of albeit happy and cordial people but a complete absence of any directions or authority figures. Any directions would have helped out, let alone a clearly distinguished line or some signage. We moved some 100 feet in 3 1/2 hours before we gave up hope and slowly made our way to the WWII memorial.

The event was momentous, but the organization was atrocious. If you grant 240,000 tickets and plan to open the gates at 8AM and close them at 11AM, then maybe you should plan on getting 240,000 people through the gates in 3 hours...seems obvious to me. Add to it the fact that we stood in line at Longworth to pick up our tickets for over 2 hours on Monday and you end up with some unhappy constituents. A great occasion that was awfully planned.

Although the police officers were incredibly friendly, they seemed just as clueless as the mobs, so blame in my mind lies with the Secret Service. I fail to understand what sort of threat people in the silver section posed to VIPs who were 1/4 mile away, especially after walking through such positive crowds and lines of military, police and other authorities, but security to enter the silver section must have been ridiculous...if only I even caught a glimpse of the security gate! A much larger security threat lay in the disarray amongst the aimless ticketed mobs trying to reach a security checkpoint. Thankfully nearly all were cheery and took the failure of the federal government to formulate an "exit strategy," or should I say "entrance strategy," in stride.

Although I only walked from Arlington, I had family that had flown in from Southern California and you can bet their congressmen/women will receive a letter of disappointment.

At the end of the day however, we finally have a new promising President and most of the country is filled with hope and that is what is most important.

Posted by: letsgokings2004 | January 21, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Combined with the pileups of people trying to exit to the west, this reflects the shift to too much attention to counterterrorism and security at the expense of personal health and safety. With 40 people in the command center from FBI, DHS, etc., planes and helicopters overhead monitoring activities, and the latest in communications, the security officials could not follow their own plans (as published for all to use), direct their personnel to open gates as needed, and get announcements to people via bullhorn, signage and text. We're paying taxes for these services, and if security professionals can't serve, changes need to be made.

Posted by: Mike113 | January 21, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

I met two women who had Silver tickets who were unable to attend. One of them was from California and flew in just for the event. They were devastated. I apologized to them on behalf of the DC Metro region and assured them this is not how we entertain guests, but stronger amends should me made by those who are truly responsible.

Posted by: hakafos44 | January 21, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Yes, thank you Post for reporting this story. As a fellow metro area journalist who was a disappointed purple ticket holder stuck in the tunnel, I was wondering where all the journalists assigned to cover possible messes like this were, espeically around 11:30 when massive crowds stood outside the purple gate waving their tickets and chanting. This situation needed to be reported because it affected tens of thousands of people. Please keep up your coverage of this ticket fiasco.

Posted by: amberparcher | January 21, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

The fiasco had nothing to do with any unexpectedly large crowds and was completely avoidable. They knew exactly how many tickets they handed out. Their complete lack of signage, lack of people directing the crowds, and general lack of caring about the attendees is what caused the problem. And the saddest thing was that after I got in, there was plenty of space for most if not all the people on line. It was solely a problem caused by lack of organization at the gate. The Blue Gate was a disaster waiting to happen and it's only because people kept their cool that it didn't result in serious injuries. No thanks to the cops that stood around chatting with each other and ignored us when we told them how bad it was getting. The lack of planning was truly unforgivable. The people handling

Posted by: jrider | January 21, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of the investigation findings, I've been robbed of a lifetime experience. Further, I brought along my 10 year old cousin to witness history in the making -- an experience I knew would solidify his drive to overcome the obstacles in his life as a young African-American kid living in poverty and within a single parent home. We did everything right to get to the blue gate a little before 8am, including leaving at 4am from Richmond, VA. He endured the bitter cold, the long waits, and even the butterflies in his shoulder. But, as our fears became reality that we would not get through, he started to cry. His tears cut me deeper than missing the swearing-in. Feeling defeated and in desperate need of a restroom, we walked to Union Station. There, we did see the last 20 seconds of Obama's speech on the television.

So, I ask my fellow blue and purple ticket holders to consider their loss as a political contribution and withheld any future contributions until you recoup your loss. For me, the experience was priceless, so the math is simple.

Amazingly, during our ride home, he tried to console me by saying he enjoyed the trip and that he experienced his first train ride (metro) and saw several Washington monuments, Union Station, Dorothy Height, and Wyclef Jean.

Posted by: xophers | January 21, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

It's true, the stories made up by Gainer and the Joint Congessional Inaugural Committee are pathetic butt-covering excuses for a complete lack of planning, adequate crowd control or information. I was there - there were no interlopers without tickets and no rowdiness beyond chanting "Ready on Day One?????". As for having to draw officers away to cope with other problem areas - isn't having a "flying squad" of extra police standard planning practice? I'd like to see an unequivocal, NO EXCUSES, apology and have heads roll amongst the upper ranks of the beaurocracy and police who planned this fiasco. Please write to your senator.

Posted by: Richard_Payne | January 21, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

What a debacle. I was working for a TV Network so I was able to see the camera shots of the throngs of people making their way to the ticketed and non-ticketed areas.
To get to work, my employer had issued "credentials" which (they assured) would get us to our work location without a hitch. I was stopped three times at three different check-points, every time having to persuade my way in. One cop didn't even know what the Newseum was (he kept saying "You mean the Museum?"); I now figure he was one of the out-of-town law enforcement staff that came in. You would have thought the organizers would have given all officers maps, a briefing, clear plans, bullhorns, something! so that they could effectively direct people to the correct location and give accurate instructions.
I really feel for all the people who made such a sacrifice of time, money, and endured long walks and freezing weather to witness this historic event. If I had been one of the people holding a ticket and wasn't able to get in despite waiting for hours, I doubt that there's anything the organizers could do to make it up to me.

Posted by: VAcitizen | January 21, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Security knew how many people had tickets and therefore knew how many people would have to go in per minute to actually get everybody with a ticket into the viewing area. The Purple gate opened sometime after nine, letting in about 50 people into an area where they would go through metal detectors, and then they would close off the gate for a number of minutes before letting another couple dozen through. In short, the rate was not even close to that necessary to get everybody with a ticket in. Basically security let in a intermittent trickle of people while throngs were packed together. 1st and Louisiana was a disaster area (and clearly visible in the satellite image). I find it very difficult to believe that only 4,000 people didn't get in. It seemed like the vast majority of those with purple tickets didn't get in, and from what I've heard the same is true with the Blue tickets. The apology is a good start, but their explanation, thus far, is clearly wrong from the thousands that witnessed what happened first hand.

Posted by: beastmode | January 21, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Silver Ticket holder here: Waited on 3rd Street, unmoving, without being told anything or seeing a single cop, for 3 hours before finally being in a mass of people they let "in" the first Silver Gate at around 11:25. However, the area past the "Gate" was mobbed by non-ticket-holders -- in order to get to the actual security checkpoint in front of the American Indian Museum, we had to squeeeeze past thousands of people (without a single sign or single cop giving anyone any directions), finding the screening area largely empty. Once inside, much of the Silver Area was completely empty (as the satellite images show). Why in the world were so many people left out for HOURS AND HOURS when there was a nearly totally empty huge plot of land in the Silver Area?! It makes no sense.

Apart from the ticket fiasco, when leaving, Independence Ave was total gridlock, especially at the intersections, and again, NO SECURITY PERSONNEL were even around, and the few that were either did NOTHING or gave incorrect information (such as "No one can cross the 14th St Bridge). For non-DC natives, there were no special signs, no directions, nothing. What a mess.

Posted by: Smit-Tay | January 21, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

So who was in charge? In this day of email and twitter and other devices - I can't see why the information was not transmitted to those in charge so that directions could be given. Ridiculous. I feel so sorry for those who came thousands of miles only to be turned away. Someone should be held accountable - but no one will be.

Posted by: barbnc | January 21, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

The Homeland Security apparatus must be defunded.

And anything written by TIMNGUYEN1 needs to be erased. It is SPAM and HATE SPEECH from the worst Jim Crow tradition.

Posted by: bs2004 | January 21, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

The 4-5K estimate is utter nonsense. I had a purple ticket and like tens of thousands of others was denied entry after waiting for hours in the tunnel. There is no way that the 4-5K # can be correct unless almost everyone in that line didn't have tickets, but that idea is far-fetched because for several hours if you were entering from 3rd Street you had to show your purple ticket in order to get in the line. And this doesn't even begin to estimate the # of blue and silver ticket holders denied.

I really hope The Post doesn't drop this story and scrutinizes that 4-5K nonsense. I went down to the Mall today to talk to a local NBC reporter and I am hoping the pressure ratchets up a bit so there is an explanation and accountability. So far, there has been neither, notwithstanding the piddly apology. Remember that initially we were told yesterday that no one with a ticket was denied entry, and now we have the 4-5K claim. Those in charge of security, crowd management, organization, etc. are trying to sweep this under the rug. No, they can't.

Posted by: foreyiv | January 21, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

My only question is when tens of thousands of people are blocking your way, what do you expect the security folks to do? Ask these other people to move for you? And if so, where?
Sorry but no party planner I know has experience dealing with the number of people that visited our city. More than 1,000,000 people were satisfied,, less than 5,000 ticket holders were not--that is less than a one-half percent disapproval rating, I bet Bush would like to have that.

Posted by: streff | January 21, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

As a Blue Ticket holder who never go closer than 50 yards to the gate, here are my observations.

1. The only large sign indicating directions to ticketholders was directly outside the Capitol South Metro, which was several blocks from the actual gates.

2. Small signs that indicated gates by color were no bigger than 11x17, placed randomly on lampposts or traffic lights, and no higher than 5' off the ground. Impossible to see through the crowd.

3. No police or security forces had megaphones to give directions to the crowd. Not that it would have helped, as nobody in authority knew where the various lines ended anyway.

Clear and simple, they dropped the ball.

Posted by: chris_wiz | January 21, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Hi, I just want to add our voices to this mix.

We were so excited when we got tickets to the inauguration from our state legislator just a week ago that we scraped together a way to get down there specifically for the event.

We endured a 10-hour all night long bus ride from Boston, spent the night in a room we found on Craig's list with one of us sleeping on the floor, lined up in the tunnel with our purple tickets before 6 am that morning (and indeed they were checking our tickets before they even admitted us to the tunnel), only to be barred from admission. Our group included two high school students who were totally thrilled at the prospect of being able to witness the inauguration. Then at the end of the day we were back on the bus headed for home.

I do want to add that the folks in the tunnel were great. Folks were singing, chanting, and in good spirits during all those hours we patiently waited--all so excited about the prospect of being able to participate in something so moving. We were surrounded by folks who had come from all parts of the country. So sad. So many of us could have been admitted had thinks been organized differently.

Posted by: lindaport | January 21, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse


I was one of the people in the tunnel. There were not less than 5000 people in there. Unless you were there, you cannot make the comment that is went well. For us, it was one dangerous situation in that tunnel. There were tens of thousand of people in there, no less than 5000. Sorry, but your police blew it big time, and I never want to go to DC again.

Posted by: mchoco | January 21, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Re-do the swearing in, since it should be redone properly anyway, and give these people exclusive tickets. If they can't come, send them a CD of it and an apology that they can frame and hang on their walls for posterity.

Posted by: Grebo | January 21, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Most problems come down to miscommunication and bad management.

Posted by: blakesouthwood | January 21, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

What a pathetic canned response that blames the ticket-holders and the crowds! They only have themselves to blame for poor crowd control and start-to-finish planning.

As a denied blue ticket holder this makes me fume. I almost cut in line b/c there was no organization, but I waited in line to be fair. And the gates were shut on me.

Heads should roll.

Posted by: caranddriver | January 21, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

There was no communication. All day I only saw one PIC volunteer. There were no signs. I saw some people in army fatigues with orange vests. (Don't know if they were military or police.) None of them had bullhorns.

I was on the north side of the Mall, and I tried to get out the same way I got in. A huge throng of people all pressing their way toward 12th Street. But as more and more people came up behind us, people starting coming toward us, saying that that exit had been closed.

It is insanity to try and get 2 million people off the Mall and provide only two exit routes, both of which point south. Because Metro had four stations closed (the ones most convenient to the Mall), foot traffic was essentially doubled as everyone threaded their way south to L'Enfant, Fed. Triangle or Capitol South.

At L'Enfant, people in wheelchairs had waits of 2 hours or more in a queue for the Metro elevator. No one was there to advise the crowds that there was an escalator, literally, right across the street from the elevator. Metro employees just stood around with a bemused expression.

I don't know who the bigger culprit is: Secret Service or MPD, but how people were treated verged on criminal.

My heart goes out to all the people who came but were barred from seeing it.

I have to say that all of the people I encountered all day were kind and patient. There was a great generosity of spirit and goodwill toward others. How sad that we all came up smack dab against DC officials' total incompetence.

BTW, I was one of the disabled people in attendance. I was fortunate to have complete strangers who helped guide me off the Mall, helped me up and down curbs (there was no way to get to ramps in that kind of foot traffic; a sea of people), helped me avoid obstacles, and looked after me until I got down to the Metro station. Bless all of you for that, and I'm sorry that DC let you down.

Posted by: NW_Washington | January 21, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I think we all have to remember that although there were tickets issued (free, I might mention) there were also more than 1 million people that did not get into the special section(I was one of them) the police and guards were not ticket agents, they were there to protect the people and ensure there was not any rioting or loss of crowd control. I did not see any fighting or loss of control from these working men and women. They did a really great job keeping it altogether. There were Military, Police, National Guard, Volunteer Boyscouts and Girlscouts, Nurses, First Aid Stations, Warming stations to keep everyone comfortable and Safe. They did their job well. The issue was the Inaugural committee issuing clear direction to the people with tickets also making sure they understood having a ticket is no guarantee you would be allowed entrance. They should have had a plan for the people for when that began to back up. It is also too bad they did not foresee the crowd of people that would not make it to their seats as they stood there for so long. They should have sent someone out to redirect them to the "no-ticket" section to watch with the rest of us. I think it was an incredible event and that Washington D.C. Hosted it very well. The most issues were that regarding lack of patience and the huge lines which is of no ones fault except to those that did not anticipate they would not have "free" access.

Posted by: antibloggedy | January 21, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

I wrote a long explanation of the fiascos I encountered yesterday, but I guess it is too long to post here. President Obama should do the right thing and invite those of us who did not get in, to a special ceremony. This has to be one of the biggest disappointments of my 54 yr long life. I am trying to watch it on DVD today (someone recorded the day for me, just in case) and I cannot bear to watch it; It just reminds me of all I missed yesterday. I spent 7 hours trying to get in to the purple section, only to find a different "road block" every where I turned. DISGUSTING what that they did to valid ticket holders. I am just sick!

Posted by: kashabear | January 21, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

The only acceptable apology is the resignation of the Capitol Hill Police Chief and the Sgt. at arms. If they don't resign, fire them. This was gross incompetence followed by outright lies to the public and disingenuous remarks about the people who waited patiently in line.

Our story (which has a moderately happy ending):

We waited in the "silver ticket" line for hours with no information, toilets, or water. We eventually got into the silver area only because we gave up our position in line in order to find another place in the "public area" of the Mall.

In front of the Air & Space Museum, a red-hat volunteer intercepted us and said the line which we had left (and which snaked around several city blocks) was "bogus". In fact, she appeared very stressed out that people were lining up in the "wrong line".

When I told her that other red-hat volunteers had directed us to that line, she exasperatedly told me they had erroneous information. She then directed us to go directly to the American Indian museum and cut around the back. We followed those instructions to the letter (it was the ONLY correct information we received all day)and found ourselves at almost empty inspection tables.

It turned out that non-ticket holders had blocked the silver ticket entrance and intended to watch the ceremony from the sidewalk along Third (I know because I asked them why they weren't following us into the inspection area...they confirmed they had no tickets but thought it was a great place to watch the ceremony since they could look straight down Maryland Avenue without any trees blocking the way.)

There was no attempt to get them out of the way because there was no one there in authority. Further, there was absolutely NO information about the situation there at the Silver Ticket entrance sign on Independence and Third. Nil, nada. Not a sign, not a volunteer, not a policeman, nothing.

Yet the line closest to the Indian museum--just 50 feet away from the main crowd--moved very orderly and quickly. No pushing, shoving...just a steady stream. It turned out to be the only way in (Third street itself was blocked by jersey barriers). One policeman or volunteer with a bullhorn could have moved people in that direction. When told about the situation a uniformed TSA inspector said it wasn't his business...he had almost empty inspection tables to supervise.

I subsequently heard from friends in the original line on the other side of Independence that most never got in--and there were thousands in that line. The one red-hat was right...it was a bogus line to nowhere.

--Silver Ticket Holder

Posted by: goodhikers | January 21, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Come on people. I also was kept out but I understand that there were just too many people there. What is wrong with our culture that we have to complain about everything?

Posted by: GloomBoomDotcom | January 21, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Many people went and had a good time "IN SPITE OF"...

However, that's NO EXCUSE for incompetence. I'd been speaking with Arlington County coordinators and they were livid with the lack of clear communication from the Inaugural committee.

If all these officials wanted to accomplish was crowd control (like a riot) then it was a roaring success!!!!!

Posted by: mdsinc | January 21, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

I hope Sen. Feinstein et al will make amends...to wit, I sent her the following email:
Dear Senator Feinstein,

As Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, I am writing to you to express what I can only describe as stunning and disbelieving disappointment in the management of the ticket lines for the swearing in ceremony. I waited in what I now refer to as "the long blue ticket line to nowhere" for many hours (hard-won ticket in hand). With no communication during the discombobulated, chaotic wait, I realized, along with the hundreds of others still in line by 11:50am, that I would not be able to see anything of the ceremony I had longingly hoped and painstakingly planned to see. The heartbroken faces of the people around me--people who had spent great amounts of time and money to make the journey--only to be turned away, made the blue ticket seem like an uber booby prize.

I read the brief and insufficient apology issued by your Committee today. Something more should be done to make amends for this grievous planning error. When I say more, I don't mean just an inquiry into what went wrong.

Posted by: lbeckwith | January 21, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

One perspective I have not seen in the reporting of this event is whether any of the security forces took charge of the situation to uncover the underlying difficulties that resulted in this mess-up. I hope so, but I fear not. In reading of this, I was struck by some parallels between the inauguration and two equally monumentous events.

As to the first event, I was at the 1976 July 4 celebration, which was reported to have 2.5 Million people on the Mall. It was similarly a time of joyful celebration, when people would meet another's eye and smile. And not only smile, but extend a hand in friendship. Keeping that in mind, the idea that DC is unable to accommodate large crowds ignores history.

The second event was 9/11, after which it was demonstrated that a principal reason for the uncoordinated response was the inability of security forces to communicate over the same airwaves and thus coordinate their information. The realization that security forces are still unable to coordinate and share information that would have solved this solvable problem--after eight years of Bush/Cheney dysfunctional paranoia--is disheartening. Interestingly, the people who were shut out are now a part of history, and they are symbolic of the legacy of the previous failed administration.

It may be that the only consolation left to those who were mistakenly excluded from watching the inauguration is that, as with the protesters against the blindness of the past, they can perhaps take heart in recognizing that they took part and they tried. My hope is that they are the last to be excluded.

Posted by: douglasbaskett | January 21, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

I agree with many of the comments about the number of people left out. My wife(7.5 mos pregnant extracted ourselves just before 11 when it was evident we were not getting in and the crowd was becoming frsutrated, who can blame them. I think they are trying to do some lazy math becasue the pictures i saw would demonstrate the large number of folks in the blue line that were turned away. The dearth of communication was irresponsible! We were extremely disappointed and watched the ceremony from the cafeteria of Longworth. Good thing was the tears coming down our faces didnt freeze but we were dejected we were not out there. I feel sorry for all the people that invested money to be there with tickets and didnt get in.

Posted by: danmanley2299 | January 21, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Instead of being treated as guests of the city and honored citizens of the Republic, I felt that the public was regarded as intruders -- unless you were in a limo.

Posted by: Gidgmom | January 21, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

We didn't have these problems in 2001 or 2005!! I guess this is all part of the CHANGE you've been expecting!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | January 21, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

A few comments from a lucky Silver Ticket Holder:

The estimate of 4,000-5,000 ticket holders not getting in is a lowball estimate. There should be a readjustment on that given satellite images and feedback. Also, it should be acknowledged that many silver ticket holders (at least 10,000 to 20,000 estimate, or more) also did not get in as well. I consider it media bias that the blue and purple ticket holders are getting so much attention when there are so many more silver ticket holders (behind us) that did not gain admission.

The silver 'stampede' of the security staff did work to our (my father and my) advantage. We did not have to show our silver tickets in the end, we had no security screening, and we were in the middle front of a largely empty silver section East of Third Street between Penn & Maryland as of 11:30 a.m. Media, please use this information to dispel any notion that the Silver Section was full at this time. Even through to 11:45 and to the conclusion of the ceremony, the middle front of the Silver Section was loosely packed, and I would say solely with Silver Ticket holders. The cause of Silver Tickets not gaining admission was the slowness and/or underrstaffing of security to screen ticketholders, not too many ticketholders or presence of those without tickets.

Washington Post and other media, please continue to work on this story. Many Washingtonians (like me) were there and cannot believe we saw our city so ill-prepared at this one moment to get it right for oh so many people. Now those in charge won't even step up to own up what worked well (as many things did) and what didn't? This is not the Fenty and Obama Adminstrations I know.

Posted by: tracyhart | January 21, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

As a blue ticket holder, I saw two major problems in addition to the ones mentioned by others. First, there were 3 separate "lines" merging into 1 line. Once Metro shut down the Federal Center station, people were getting off at the Capitol South or L'Enfant Plaza stations. Three lines formed as a result, and there were no police or security representatives to tame the chaos of the merge. I moved only 300 feet after being in line over 4 hours. A friend got in the line on 3rd and Independence about 45 minutes after I did on C and Washington, and she made it through the security gate around 11:00.

Second, the barricades for the lines were only 1-sided. Reportedly, the other ticketed lines were set up with barricades on both sides to keep the lines organized. There were so many people who pushed their way into line, and there was no one there to stop them. I looked over my shoulder at one point and saw that there were 20 people to my left instead of just 4. People who were immediately in front of me moved farther and farther ahead as the hoard of people pushed into the line.

At one point, an EMT came over to tell us that the gates would remain open during the inauguration ceremony and that the DC police had been dispatched to help control the line. Well, both were false. The gates closed around 11:45, and the only police who came were ones with bullhorns who threatened the crowd to disperse.

We could not hear or see the speech live from the side street we were on, but a generous man with a hand-held radio saved the day. While others shouted at the police at the closed gate, he turned up his radio and held it up so others could hear. A small group of us huddled around him to hear the oath and speech. I looked up from our little group at one point to see others doing the same in their own little huddles.

Although I cannot adequately express my deep disappointment at not being able to witness history in the making, the shared experience in our circle was nevertheless something special. A diverse group of strangers united by a common admiration of our new president...

Posted by: djohn1 | January 21, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm so sorry to hear about everyone's horrible experiences. Ours couldn't have been more different - just for another perspective. We left our house in Maryland at 9:45 and were on the mall (across 14th street from the Washington Monument) watching the event on a jumbotron by the time people were seated at the Capitol. After the ceremony, we wandered into the Museum of Natural History, where we had a warm lunch before we watched the parade on a theater screen in the auditorium (no tickets, no advanced plan). It was a delightful experience. I'm not trying to rub it in, but not everyone had such a horrible time.

Posted by: susanbuchanan1 | January 21, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

4000!!!! Seriously u got to be kiddin. I would say at least 20000 people didnt get in. People were crying and were very angry. The security was a-w-f-u-l, they were no crowd control. Come on, if we had better security and crowd control we would have probly all made it in. Whoever in charge of this should be ashamed.I wait since 4:00 am and was very mad, plus we couldnt watch it at all or hear it.Think next time ppl!!!!

Posted by: mazzy1 | January 21, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse


Do you know how small DC is and how few resources we have? Our police had to strain to take care of you, while still doing their job of taking care of me.

You mention a Senator that you complain to. Please keep in mind that I don't have a Senator to complain to. I pay federal taxes with no vote. I pay federal taxes with NO VOTE!

There were around 4 times as many people viewing the swearing in as live in DC. Has this scale not left any impression on you?
There are not plans for this type of thing stored away because it has never happened before on this scale. Yes we deal with events all the time, but when a parameter like size changes, there is no way to test the system before it goes live and the changes that were necessary to attempt to accomodate the size.

There were no catastrophies as a result of this one historic day, lets move on at this point. Not getting to see something on a jumbotron didn't affect that many people. Our nation is facing huge challenges with potential catastrophies that we need to be focused on--they will affect us all.

Posted by: streff | January 21, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Just thought I would do the math. 240,000 Possible ticket holders to pass security in 3 hours. That's 80,000 people an hour. Six security checkpoints thats 13,333 cleared entrants an hour. That’s 216 entrants a minute. That’s 36 entrants a second. If they could actually clear people one a second, each of six security points needed 36 separate entrances with staff. That would be if tickets for each section were issued equally. When actually, purple, blue and especially silver carried the highest proportions of ticket holders. The Geosky Photo taken at 11:19 shows thousands at Purple, Blue and Silver checkpoints with lots of space in these sections empty. Conclusion: this whole thing was an impossibility at best with the restrictions in place and could have been prevented with a little up front math. The numbers show they probably couldn't have handled half of the tickets distributed. I think maybe 10,000 or 20,000 ticket holders didn’t get in to see the whole ceremony, if any. The math and Pictures prove it. I didn’t have a ticket, but was in the area on my bicycle after the ceremony and saw and heard the politely disgruntled and disappointed everywhere. I mention my bicycle because it allows me to cover a lot of ground quick. I Know downtown DC and the mall very well. I have attended many events on the mall. I was shocked At how difficult it was to circumvent restrictions and move around the mall and parade route even with the speed and mobility my bicycle gave me. It almost didn’t make sense and was probably done with little analyses and worse, callous disregard for how if would effect thousands of visitors. Personally, I felt from the very beginning, given the times as they are, the inauguration should have been a much more subdued affair setting a tone of greater austerity, even given the history of the event.

Posted by: mikeveax | January 21, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

I paid 330 dollars to go to the inauguration with a group of 15 with my school. We went up on sunday, watched the concert, went to a ball and we had tickets in the purple section whichwe got through our congressman Bill Shuster. We decided to walk to the city from Crystal City. We walk FIVE miles in the TWENTY degree temperature. we get to the washington monument and try to stay together in the TWO MILLION people that are there only to find the road to get to our ticket enterence is blocked. One of the few policemen i saw all day very rudely told us to go up a block and around. we do so only to find the next SEVENTEEN BLOCKS have roads blocked off. we board the metro get dropped off and walk TEN more blocks to get to our purple gate enterence. we arrive there to see a mob of about five thousand (at the least). we make our way to the front only to find out that the gate had never opened. People had been standing since five thirty and 4 am waiting to get through the gates to our section but they never opened. The crowd was chanting (LET US IN) andthere was not a single cop in sight. It was like a mob, i couldnt move my arms i was so squished. It got to be 11;45 and Obama was getting inaugurated and I was in a mob where i couldnt see or hear anything only about 10 ft outside of the gates. I sobbed my eyes out. To be there, within 50 ft, have a ticket and yet not be allowed even a chance at admittance for no reason- it makes me sick. This was supposed to eb an amazing once in a lifetime for me and my fellow highschool classmates, instead it was a nightmare due to shoddy planning. All i want is a real explanation, not all this BS we are being fed.

Posted by: doclogan2 | January 21, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Adding to a previous comment I posted: At about 9:15 I sent a text message to PIC2009 to let them know that there was a major problem with the purple line. At about 9:30 I received a text message from PIC2009 saying they were aware there was a problem and were working to rectify it. Needless to say there was no rectifying done, at least as far as anyone could tell.

Posted by: momof41 | January 21, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

The truth is that the purple area was empty for the time leading up to the ceremony. Only as the time of swearing in became closer did groups of people enter that section. When the gates were closed prior to noon, the section had the space to accomodate many more people. I was watching this section throught the morning as my children were to be in that section but they ended up on the outside looking in with the other purple ticket holders. Own up to the fiasco and do not blame others for poor planning. Having been to other inaugurations, this semmed to be the most mishandled in the ticketed areas.

Posted by: mred3 | January 21, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

"Many of the problems appear to have been due to the unprecedented crowds". NO, it was due to incompetence and a complete lack of security. It was not the fault of those trapped in lines for 5+ hours. There was a certain number of blue and purple tickets and it was in the thousands. Everyday there are sporting events where 75,000 people enter. So STOP w/adding insult to injury. This is BUSH like to hear this whitewash.

Posted by: trishmurphy05 | January 21, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

I too would like to add my experience in the "Purple tunnel" At 6:35 I entered the tunnel after following the line that had formed at the corner of 1st and D. DC police on bicycle were directing people down the off ramp into the tunnel. We finally emerged from the tunnel (police were long gone)at 11:00am. We then followed what had become a surge of people back to the intersection of 1st and D and turned south on 1st. We observed the closed gate at 1st and C and turned around to avoid what could have been a disaster. An investigation should be undertaken to understand the full extent of the fiasco. I would estimate the number of people just in the tunnel at 11:00 am to be over 4000 easily. We all have the photos to prove it. When I finally returned to my hotel at 15th and Rhode Island at 1:00 pm there were national guard stationed at the area intersections. Where were the crowd control personnel down near the gates?

Posted by: jaulb | January 21, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Again, I am reading reflections of what my 11 year old son and I experienced. No presence by the police or inagural representatives. No plan. No way in. No way out. Scary, a little humiliating and a big shame. I kept explaining to my son that there were terrible things like Katrina and that this was just unfortunate, but still, a REAL explanation MUST be forthcoming to those of us that laid out a lot of money to get there BECAUSE we were offered tickets (based on work for most of us) and we followed the rules. There was such disregard for the very thing that people were wearing T-shirts proclaiming. Human decency. A little more effort to communicate. A megaphone, for gosh sakes.

Posted by: pieface47 | January 21, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

It is with a heavy heart, tremendous disappointment and a fair amount of anger that I write this. I was one of the tens of thousands that held a blue ticket to yesterday’s inauguration and never made it in. Never even made it close despite the fact that we stood in line for 3+ hours. Furthermore, I was no where near the tunnel that today's PIC statement of apology refers to. And I can assure you there were far more than 3 or 4 thousand people around me that didn’t get in either; the vast majority with the appropriate ticket.

The blue access gate was a total debacle. There was absolutely ZERO supervision maintaining any flow or order. It is a miracle that no one was crushed in the surge we experienced and that tempers and frustrations didn't flair. If a generator went down as we heard at one point how could there be no back up generator readily available? In cold weather this should have been planned for. And when the blue lines became impossibly bottle necked due to too many access points and NO manpower to supervise, how come no one thought to re-route us to more open access points, like the orange check points which we could see moving smoothly? In addition, your statement says some ticket holders didn’t get in because sections reached capacity. We had friends in the blue section that did make it through. They reported plenty of available space. In addition, when we watched the ceremony hours later on tape we could see visible stretches of green where we were supposed to be standing. At the very least why weren't TV monitors moved near the lines when it became apparent that thousands of ticket holders would miss the ceremony all together?!

I personally traveled from Ohio for this inauguration. I closed my business and hired babysitters to watch my children. So did those with me. My tickets were obtained after I housed the Ohio Field Director for nearly 6 months and worked tirelessly for the Obama campaign in Ohio. I was invited by the PIC to attend the swearing in. Today I feel as if that moment I worked so hard to help achieve was robbed from me forever.

Of course I realize there are no do-over’s. I do however believe the PIC can do more than apologize. The internet is alive tonight with many sound suggestions. Perhaps there can be a reception at the White House for those of us who suffered because of the PIC’s mistakes? Or at the very least start collecting names and make sure we are the first to receive SEATS four years from now. That is assuming any of us would have the heart, courage or will to come back.

Posted by: mfleisher1 | January 21, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Instead of being treated as guests of the city and honored citizens of the Republic, I felt that the public was regarded as intruders -- unless you were in a limo.

Posted by: Gidgmom | January 21, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

We didn't have these problems in 2001 or 2005!! I guess this is all part of the CHANGE you've been expecting!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | January 21, 2009 8:03 PM

Hey, Sport -- I voted for McCain!!! I attended both Bush Inaugurals!!

The Swearing-in of a President is not about partisanship. It's about America's extraordinary tradition of peacefully transfering power from one lawfully elected administration to the next.

The Swearing-in ceremony was not run by Obama, it was run by Senator Dianne Feinstein. She was supposed to coordinate with the Capitol Police, Metro Police and the Armed Forces Inaugural Cmte.

Apparently there needs to be a new entity: PRIVATE CITIZENS INAUGURAL COMMITTEE (PCIC) -- to ensure that regular Americans who acquire an Inaugural ticket and make the effort to attend can in fact have their ticket and their effort honored by being admitted to the event and be entitled to safe and timely egress afterward.

For tens of thousands of Americans, this Inaugural was a fiasco. That bothers me, no matter who is being sworn in.

On 9/11, partisanship didn't matter. It shouldn't have mattered on 1/20, either.

Posted by: Gidgmom | January 21, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

I was a silver. The line was about seven blocks long and three people deep when they closed the checkpoint just after people stormed it, with an hour before the ceremony. That left thousands of silvers fleeing back towards 14th Street at the Washington Monument, which was the closest access point.

They thought they would create 240,000 tickets, only allow 3 and a half hours for screening, and use just one entrance per color? They should have just stated on the ticket that your sorry ass isnt getting in.

Posted by: captainscott | January 22, 2009 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Diane Feinstein has issued a call for an enquiry and all those involved are invited to report their experiences (email address below)

Feinstein today released a statement ''in response to reports of incidents which prevented a large number of ticketholders from reaching their designated areas at the 56th Presidential Inaugural Ceremony.''

Here it is:

''I have just spoken with Mark Sullivan, Director of the Secret Service, and I have asked him to convene, along with the U.S. Capitol Police, all law enforcement and other parties involved in planning for this Inaugural to conduct a prompt investigation into two serious incidents that have been reported. These reports have prompted great concern by members of the Inaugural Committee, including Senator Bob Bennett, and by Congress in general.''

''The specific incidents include the report that a decision was made to cut off access to Purple and Blue standing areas, which meant that a large number of ticketholders could not reach their designated areas.''

''I am also aware of the incident involving the 3rd Street Tunnel, where thousands of people were stuck for several hours and apparently without any law enforcement presence.''

''There may have also been other irregularities, but I have heard enough to know that something went wrong and we need to find out what happened. Mr. Sullivan has indicated that he will provide a full report.''
Ticket holders with complaints are being asked to contact the Secret Service, in addition to contacting the Joint Congressional Committee for Inaugural Ceremonies at feedback@jccic.senate.gov.''

So please email your experiences to that committee. No email address is given for the Secret Service. Anyone know now to email them?

Posted by: meredithwheeler | January 22, 2009 12:48 AM | Report abuse

The statements coming out are and apologies are more insulting than the occurrences because they take no responsibility and thousands of people witnesses can attest that their statement is a lie. The biggest lie is that they had police managing these lines. After two hours I found two police (and I was in line about a block from the gate, could see the entrance for the entire 6 hours I was in line) and when I reached the police, was in his word more concerned about getting a handful of VIP cars past a cross walk. So I approached a second police woman who informed me there were a lot of people there, I got past the internal "duh" and "which memo did she miss" to tell her that the crowd is getting unsafe, we see the gate isn't moving, but we also asked her or another officer to be sent to regulate the 3 and 4 lines that had formed, ours being the only one initially directed by the police. But she just walked away to pretend to be helping yet another VIP car. The frustrated crowd then turned into a freezing, crushing pool of people - and to inform Sen. Feinstein, we could see the gate with the line not moving and the lawn which was not packed – they did not just shut out 1000 people or 4000. At about 11:50ish we all got excited because the line started moving only to be faces staring at the gate and realizing that the police at the gate had created a line with stragglers, not those who followed their rules but made their own. So coming at 6 am didn't matter, rules didn't matter, following the instructions from a trickling of law enforcement didn't matter because now we were told to go to the back of the line. After I argued about how we followed their rules, the rent-a-cop looking fellow told me he would get the Dogs. I have no words. The apology is unacceptable. I will accept it when someone explains to me why the coveted Orange and Yellow sections had no problems. They were all in about two hours into the line I was with. Who were these ticket holders, were they more important and if so to whom? The Senate, the Congress or our President?

Most of the people on these lines were average Americans who spent a lot of money on planes, trains, gas, hotels, meals to come out to experience this and to be shut out in this undignified way while other "more important gates" were ushered in respectfully and with speed is what I find so repulsive.

Posted by: Luna6607 | January 22, 2009 2:15 AM | Report abuse

My husband and I stood in line for four hours only to be blocked. Huge disappointment, we had traveled from Seattle WA area. We were at the silver gate on third. Thousands if not a million were denied inside, although we ALL had tickets. My album of the event: http://www.facebook.com/editphoto.php?aid=72732&success=1&failure=0#/album.php?aid=72732&id=694466291

Posted by: metricstarr | January 22, 2009 3:01 AM | Report abuse

Never in my entire life have I seen such massive mismanagement and complete lack of organization! It's a Really good thing that the crowd was full of Happy, Well behaved folks because this could have turned into a death trap very quickly!First of all they knew that we were expecting Millions of people but only prepared for hundreds. This should Not have been a surprise!I am a fifth generation Washingtonian and am scared to think of what DC would do in a real emergency!Why couldn'they think to ask Disney to come up and help them organize? There was No line! Just a Massive Mob, Trapped between fences and funneled into a ridiculous situation! 13 check points for Thousands of people?!?!The people who actually were in line, did Not get in! The Mob from the other side who broke into line, Did get in!There was NO ONE directing Anything! There were no signs or signs that meant Nothing! There were police cars parked in line! There was No handicapped access so there were folks in wheel chairs in this Mess!There were three Police officers who couldn't tell us Anything but please stay on the other side of the white line!

Posted by: Eurythmy2 | January 22, 2009 5:59 AM | Report abuse

My wife and I flew all the way from London, England to witness history. We dressed up in giant Obama buttons and scarves and joined the end of the purple line in good faith, we've never been so excited in our lives.

At 1150 when we realised beyond all doubt that we were neither going to see nor even hear President Obama speak both of us felt the kind of heartbreak that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. We flew home dejected, bitter, angry and with nothing to show for the trip other than shattered hopes and painful photographs of how jubilant we were up until 0630 on the morning of what should have been a highlight of our lives, but instead turned into a nightmare.

Posted by: paulwinks | January 22, 2009 7:15 AM | Report abuse

We stood in the street for hours, holding our blue tickets, in vain. The line did not move, except to become more compact as people tried to get closer.

I think the biggest problem was the inability of the many agencies providing security to communicate with each other and with the crowd. Officers who did not know Washington DC tried to give directions. I think we would have all been safer with fewer police, but a better plan.

Posted by: agarcia1 | January 22, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

We also flew from Europe for the inauguration and spent the ceremony waiting in the blue line, but we especially feel for the Americans who didn't get to see it. A lot more than 4,000 people were shut out!

The main problem here was simple incompetence (to a lesser extent crowd control, but definitely not unticketed people). From the blue line we could see only a trickle of people going through the security gate. However, a simple calculation, possible for anyone with high school maths, showed that after opening at 9am, nearly 150 people per minute needed to pass the blue security gate for all ticketed guests to get in. The security services new all this information long before the day. They should therefore have arranged more metal detectors and staff or simply to open the gates much earlier than 9am. That noone took this simple yet essential step is an outrage.

This would not have caused any security problems and in fact would have made it safer. At one point there was a serious possibility of a riot as people's frustrations started to boil over in the dense crush. We came home today, happy to have been there but seriously disappointed that the security agencies could spoil such an occasion for so many thousands of people and, now, make such a pathetic and inaccurate apology.

Posted by: BruxBrux | January 22, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Planners-please just tell the truth. There weren't people waiting who didn't have tickets. Thousands of people around us and behind us in line for hours, and for blocks, and into the tunnel had legitimate purple tickets. And there was plenty of room inside. It's about having only 5 entrances for 250,000 people and what time they were opened. It's amazing how courteous and orderly people acted throughout this ordeal. It says alot about those who supported Obama--people of character who have regard for others despite adversity, unfairness and ultimately big disappointment. Security did a great job: polite and effective, but let's admit they were overwhelmed by circumstances created by those responsible for this poor plan.

Posted by: keltimo | January 22, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Their so called "apology" is nothing but another lie. Were those involved in planning of the event trying to create uncontrolled crowds and push them to start rioting? That was my impression after witnessing their "crowd control techniques". We flew from another end of the country 'cause we thought we had blue tickets for the ceremony. Well, we did have blue tickets, but nobody cared to let us in. That's the truth.
Instead of these getting cheap apologies by Feinstein, Reid and Pelosi, I would like to have them buy all of us - who they set up in a such a shameless way - vacation packages to some cool destinations. I don't care to travel to D.C. anymore... :) Visiting Disney World with my kids would be so much more fun.

Posted by: Sunshines1976 | January 22, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Shame, shame, shame!

What price do you put on missing a once in a life time/generation/history experience due to someones complete and utter incompetence?


How about accountability?

Who was in charge and where can I send them a letter about how I REALLY feel?

BTW, just spoke to a friend who go into the silver area WITHOUT a ticket.

Posted by: alexispena | January 22, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

It would not be possible for me to convey my disappointment, anger, outrage, and sadness about what happened on Inauguration Day. My companion and I were two of the victims of the incompetence and thoughtlessness of the DC police, Secret Service, and Park Department. As the unfortunate bearer of a Purple section ticket to the swearing in of the President, we were shunted into the I 395 tunnel under the Mall and forgotten. There were thousands of us. We waited patiently for 5 hours. We missed the event that we had spent thousands of dollars to attend. It was through no fault of our own because we arrived shortly after 6 am, stood in line patiently and politely, trusting that the officers who had sent us into the tunnel were informed as to the procedure. Obviously that was not the case. There we stood for hours, uninformed as to the fact that for whatever reason, the purple gate had been closed. Many police officers came through the tunnel, some on golf carts. Not one had the courtesy or thoughtfulness to say, “The gate is closed, you need to seek an alternate way to see the ceremony.” Instead, there we stood, the victims of a pathetically incompetent and thoughtless police department.
I dare say any of us, all of us would have preferred walking 15 blocks to one of the distant points on the mall so that we could watch on a jumbotron. Instead, there we stood, missing the whole event. For whatever reason the gate was closed, we all could have accepted. Not telling us was beyond inexcusable. At the very end when it was obvious we had been ignored, many of us attempted to at least enter into an area along the parade route. There at an entrance close to first street and Pennsylvania Ave. we were confronted by a Secret Service agent with a bullhorn and an obese, Caucasian DC police officer who mocked and ridiculed us. They got a big chuckle about our situation, but it added insult to our injury. The area hotels were even less accommodating. All in all, the day and the event were ruined by ignorance, incompetence, and thoughtlessness.
No one deserves the treatment we got. In another situation, the DC police might have been dealing with riotous destruction of property and life. But our behavior was much better than those whom we were supposed to trust.
I’m sure I will never get over the disappointment. It will take many years for this anger to subside. I can only hope in the name of some kind of justice that some measure of discipline is dispensed to the police who were pathetic in the miscarriage of their duties.

Posted by: musical123 | January 22, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I was there with thousands of people who had tickets. Nobody would tell us what was going on. Officials in yellow vests even told us that they did not know what was going on. A person next to us in line was texting back to the committee office and they were aware that they had not opened the purple gate at 10am. They kept stating they were sending people down. I watched children cry, I saw people faint, and I desperately tried to remember the reason we were there and tried not to be angry.

I have to say, if you have to be stuck in a crowd with thousands of people, these were some of the greatest people I have had the pleasure to meet.

I do want a true apology. Our Congressmen was embarrassed. Most of his guests did not get in. I would have gone to a local bar if I knew we were never getting in. They wouldn't even tell us that we wouldn't get in. I would have gladly stayed home and celebrated with my own community and watched it on TV. But we were offered the tickets, we did not even ask for them!

Posted by: suznorberg | January 22, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

My Aunt and I were purple ticket holders, compliments of our Senator. We were at the metro at 4:00am and promptly took our place in the purple line at 5:15 am. We were surrounded by wonderful people, from Alaska, Idaho....all of us kept up hope until after 11:00. Law enforcement stood around doing nothing for most of that time; we alternately took turns heading to "the front" and were told to stay put. At one point, we were told the SS had shut down the purple gate due to a security breach. Then we were told they were bringing in more help to get us moving. It never happened. By 11:30 it got scary, with people yelling and shoving. We left at that point and headed to one of the senate offices where we were able to watch on a tv in the Committee on Foreign Affairs conference room. My aunt is a widow on a limited income. We expected the crowds, responded to all the crowd warnings by getting in line almost SEVEN hours ahead the inauguration time and at no time did any security communicate with us. Couple that with the unbelievable way crowds were handled at the metro stops and the unbelievable trash just thrown everywhere in our Capital and it was a disappointment of monumental proportion.

Posted by: jhawkks | January 22, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

This is what I just wrote to the JCCIC

You can write them too...



Im sure you've heard this many times over before but I need to personally vent how atrocious the organization was for the Blue Gate in particular. There was no security or information given along the lines or should I say cattle herds. It was as if once the signs for 'Blue Gate this way' or 'Orange Gate that way' were posted everything else would take care of its self. It was potentially very dangerous and ultimately very sad. I am young but there were eldery people crying at the final closing of our gate and no accountability or explanation given to how we could have a ticket and not get in. There should have been many more gates with many more security checkpoints to allow the amount of people expected to pass through in time. Instead I was left with no way to watch or even hear this historical event and thus a frustrated, and deflated feeling: the exact opposite emotion of what I had anticipated to feel at the moment this great man takes office.

Nevertheless, what really matters is Barack Obama is now our president but its a shame this poor planning dark cloud had to loom on what was otherwise a sky blue day.


Posted by: stux712 | January 22, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I just read the press release about the "compensation" being offered to the purple, blue and silver ticket holders. I have to say that getting a copy of the swearing-in invite and program and photos of Barack Obama and Joe Biden is not good enough. That was in my ticket packet and is really I think just a slap in the face to those of us who waited for 5 hours in a tunnel. Do they really expect this to be made better by getting a second copy of what they already gave to us...

Posted by: tnbarnes | January 22, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

My daughters and I stood in line for hours with everyone else to get our tickets, then left early in the morning, following directions to the site for purple ticketholders. There we and two other friends--all of us from Arizona--joined a crowd that had to be tens of thousands (not 3,000 or 4,000). It could have been a dangerous situation. As we waited with no information, people in wheelchairs were crowded in the center, young children were propped on shoulders. Someone called the inaugural committee and was told they were aware of the situation and we would get in. So we continued to wait in vain. We were devastated when it became clear we would not make it. Yesterday I stood in line at the airport with three hours with a guy who claimed he led a crash-through the silver line and that he and others -- some of whom had no tickets -- took the purple standing area. No one asked for their tickets inside. I showed great restraint. I didn't kill him. Or even try.

Posted by: ahardt | January 22, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I was a silver ticket holder who got into DC by 7:20 AM. At 7:30, I was at my assigned gate. I waited on 3rd and Independence in a thick crowd with other silver ticket holders . No one directed us the entire time--no one advised us when or where we would be admitted, and there was no clear protocol. We saw an empty space that was designated for silver ticket holders, so we though we were all right. People waited patiently behind the barriers for hours without complaint. At almost 11 AM, I panicked, sure that we would not get in. My daughter and I squeezed through the throng, went to the back of the crowd, and found ourselves in a fast moving current of people that breezed through the bag check and on to the Mall in about 5 minutes. After trying to get the attention of the people still waiting where we had been, we got to a spot, and were part of the event. The sound was atrocious, but that's another story. I was heartbroken afterwards to meet an older man who had a silver ticket, was standing where we were, and never got in. There were many older people in my section who would not have attended without a ticket to guarantee entrance. I met a woman who worked on the Obama campaign in Columbus Ohio-- as far as I know, she did not make it in. The people waiting could neither see nor hear anything. It left a bitter taste in my mouth from an otherwise wonderful day.

Posted by: lhsmoylan | January 22, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Like so many people in the Purple Ticket I was lucky I got it. But my luck was because I didn't follow the directions I was told by the "volunteers" to go through the tunnel. Thank God I ignored that advice. I went to 3rd and F and got stuck in a HUGE crowd there. One SS Agent for over 5000 people corralled and held up there. TALK ABOUT RIDICULOUS! Then I and a group of people I met cut let and went down to 1st Street where again we were corralled near the "Purple Gate."

I hate to say it to everyone who was at the Purple Gate, but I don't think they opened the gate at even 9am. I didn't see people start going into the Purple Section until about 10AM. Second, none of the Police or SS Agents on the OTHER side of the fence by the Purple Screening area would tell us why the Purple Gate was not opening. They just told us they couldn't tell us anything. AGAIN, I decided to find out why people were going into the screening line, but we weren't.

AND THAT WAS WHEN I REALIZED THAT THE PURPLE GATE WAS OPEN BUT AT THE BACK OF THE LINE. I felt bad, because so many people were huddled around a gate that was not opening, ever.

Where did it all break down, I think everyone said it...better signage. Silver Ticket Holders didn't know where to go so they clogged streets with Purple Ticket Holders. Yellow Ticket holders were mixed in with Purple Ticket Holders. Nobody had bullhorns, so there was no real way to tell people what to do. There were no "informed" people at all, everyone either (1) Didn't know or (2) didn't care to tell anyone what the hell was going on.

I got up at 5am and got to the Capital at 6am and pretty much had to do it myself. I was lucky, but I met people who were so upset because they spent $2 - 3 thousand dollars to come only to be left out in the crowds due to incompetence of the PIC, DC Police, and SS.

Posted by: DC_Insider | January 22, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Simply devastated and disappointed. My family and I stood in line for four hours waiting to gain entry to the parade at the 10th street entrance. After buying four tickets, I fool-heartedly believed that, even if we weren't guaranteed seats, we were at least guaranteed entry. After three hours in line without a where or what fore from any type of official, we noticed that people who lined were being cut in front of by line jumpers at the front of the line who bulldozed their way into the entry point. My sixty year old parents stood in the cold and chaos for four hours based on the notion that tickets guaranteed entry. With no one to regulate the line or give proper information, really, what should we have expected. Knowing the parade was scheduled to start at 2:30 pm, and left unaware of the hour plus delay, we turned back and hopped on the Metro.

To say this was terribly disappointing is an understatement, the confusion and lack of regulation involved with organizing the Inaugural festivities on Tuesday, as well as the subsequent proclamations of success by the PIC, paint a very accurate portrait of a country so wrapped up in self-congratulation and me-first mindsets.

After suffering the loss of missing out on this historic event due to the selfish pushiness of the crowds and poor planning of the PIC, I wonder is it really worth doing the right thing or would I have been better off cutting in front of someone with a ticket that was paid for with hard earned money.

Change indeed.

Posted by: terrifictwilight | January 23, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I know a lot of you are very disappointed, but some of your facts are totally false. I know that the purple gate was open on time and remained open until about the time the cannons went off. I was there. The line started forming well before 8am. The police tried their best to maintain the integrity of that line. By the time the gates were open, their was so many people in front of the gate, that the line had been consumed by a mass crowd. Their was no line anymore, just a mass of people pressing forward on the gate and the police. For those of us at the gate their was no way of knowing exactly where the line ended. Not every one in the crowd was well behaved. It was a me first attitude and survival of the fittest at the front of the gate. It's too bad for the people who waited patiently in line, but some of your fellow supporters who showed up later didn't care about any lines and just pressed forward towards the gate. But who can blame them, because as I stated, the line had been consumed by the overwhelming crowd. I'm sorry for those who waited in line, but to even speak of a line by the time the gate was opened is ridiculous. Police were sent in to try and maintain the line for those who had waited. But remember their is only about 1600 of them total, spread out all over the Hill. They were simply overwhelmed. They risked their own safety by wading into the crowd. They were pushed and pressed upon by the crowd. Surrounded. Remember they each carry loaded weapons. Some of those officers put their own safety at risk to get you in. They saw first hand the disappointment on your face. They felt your frustration. They became frustrated. You wanted answers. They wished they had them. Some of the officers who were just as cold and had been up just as long looked frustrated as they were just overwhelmed by a huge mass of people. When you throw blame at the police, you include everyone of them (not just the officials). But even those officers, many of whom voted for Obama, who did the best they could to get as many people in given the circumstances. Is this the new Obama America where when things don't go our way we complain and look for heads to roll. Certainly things could have been gone better. No doubt lessons were learned and hopefully things will go smoother next time. Why are you so quick to throw stones and assume you could have done better. Is it so hard to believe that sometimes people do the best they can and just fall short. It's not always possible to see beforehand all the problems that may arrive during an event of that magnitude. And they're not always that easy to correct as quickly as you would like and in a manner that pleases everyone.

Posted by: johnpaul2 | January 23, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

My son and I stood for hours in the mass of people attempting to enter through the blue gates! There was no line on the street outside the gated area, total lack of organization and it appeared that it was a situation that can best be described as every "man, woman and child for themselves." All those responsible for this mess should have been able to anticipate how much time and resources would be needed to process people through security in the now infamous blue and purple areas – since those responsible knew how many tickets had been issued. It is very apparent now that the gates should have been opened much earlier, PIC volunteers or security personnel posted out on the street to organize a line, etc.

I'm from Galesburg, Illinois and supported President Obama when he ran for the US Senate in 2004. I braved the weather on that very cold day in February, 2007 when Obama announced his candidacy in Springfield and I was honored to be elected as a delegate to the Democratic Convention in Denver. I volunteered for the Obama campaign, and contributed money to the campaign, as well as the PIC. My heart was broken when I realized that my son was not going to be able to witness this event and in the end, all I could do was wipe the tears from my face. When the gates were closed to the blue ticket holders, I had no idea where my son was and made my way back to Bethesda to wait for my son and husband. The only invitation I received to any PIC event was the swearing-in ceremony – so my trip was pretty much a total loss and consisted of spending hours standing in lines! I vividly remember watching the 1956 convention on television and that summer, as a five year old, playing convention on our front porch. This was the only opportunity that I have had in my lifetime to attend a Presidential Inauguration and will probably never have another chance.

A few minutes ago I read that blue and purple ticket holders who were not admitted to the ceremony are going to receive a souvenir packet – this is pretty bizarre! It's difficult to believe that the PIC actually believes that this is going to make everything o.k. and in reality it's pretty insulting when you stop to think that individuals who have the opportunity to attend events like this all the time think that by giving a few mementos to the masses that it takes away the pain of this experience! It's almost like saying, "Let them eat cake!"

I had thought that the experience trying to leave Invesco Field was a cluster, but when friends eagerly asked me today about the Inauguration, all I could say was, "Oh, you mean my trip to hell and back?"

Posted by: chris611 | January 25, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Hello everyone,

I flew in to DC from California, stayed (crammed) at my sister's condo near Capital Hill (7 guests in a 1 br), followed all of the inauguration website's instructions, arrived at 6am and then waited and watched as those responsible for ensuring a functioning event dropped the ball and then repeatedly kicked it in the wrong direction.

Ticketed gates were not supposed to open until 8am. The non-ticketed mall areas were not supposed to be open until 7am. My 18yo neice was an inauguration day "volunteer" who admitted to having very little preparation or general details of the event...but what she did have is a camera.

At 5:30am thousands of non-ticketed spectators are seen running, in a full sprint, to the front of the mall (no doubt making it into the ticketed areas) from an unmanned security gate near the Washington Monument (around 15th to 17th St).

Those who followed instuctions and waited patiently got burned. Unfotunately, chaos ruled the day.

Posted by: ecstudios | January 27, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

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