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Many Express Outrage Over Ticket Problem

Update: At least 4,000 ticket holder were denied entry, the Post reports.

Original post: When nearly 2 million visitors packed on the Mall for celebrations, many did not get to see the festivities -- ticket or no ticket.

Many expressed outrage when authorities pushed back individuals with purple, silver and blue tickets. People have shared their photos and video of their experiences with us. Some have started a Facebook group called Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom to find other people who got shut out. Here are some of the e-mail responses we've received:

January 22

12:39 p.m.: My daughter’s 12th birthday was on 1/20/2009. The only gift that she wanted was to see and experience the Inauguration ceremony. To me this was quite a profound request for any 11 turning 12 year old to request.

As a parent I am extremely proud of her… My Mom (her grandmother) entered her name in a Inauguration raffle by the New York Senator Schumer’s office.

To our surprise our daughter won two silver tickets. It was magical and just maybe a sign (to an almost 12 year old) that she was destined to be at the Inauguration. Her mom decided to take her to Washington D.C. They traveled from Nyack N.Y. and stayed at a Holiday Inn in Hagerstown which is well outside of Washington D.C. They planned and drove to Shady Grove rail station. They rode the train in the early wee hours of that historic morning.

Once out of the train system they hit the wall of people shoved in like cattle to wait over 5 hours for a security check and the privilege to stand and view the ceremony. My wife and daughter were subjected to rude security personnel and ticket checkers. In the end, there was no getting into their standing area with their silver tickets and high expectations.

My daughter sobbed hysterically and was simply defeated by the lack of organization in crowd and event management. As a parent I explained that no matter how hard you planned, no matter how many steps you made right, there are often things that are out of your control.

This was not your fault in any way but just know how wonderful it is for you to have been in Washington D.C. on the day that the first African American President was sworn in. There are so many more things broken in America but we look for and choose hope. I am sorry your birthday didn’t meet your expectations but your life from this day onward is forever changed.

Happy birthday my little precious Dakota and maybe one day you can also be President. - Emmit

7:48 a.m.: I am one of the thousands of people with a purple ticket trapped in the tunnel. My friend and I arrived at our gate at 6:30 am and were directed to the end of the line... which was weaving back through the tunnel. We remained in the tunnel until well after 11:00. I saw the picture from the tunnel you posted in your latest update, but that doesn't really do the situation justice. I have sent you a few more pictures of what the tunnel looked like where I was. It is true that there was NO DIRECTION, NO SECURITY PRESENCE, NO ONE EVER GIVING US ANY UPDATES OR INFORMATION AT ANY TIME, unless you count the few times a police car and another golfcart-sized vehicle DROVE THROUGH US... YEP... at times they actually DROVE THROUGH THIS CROWD... HONKING REPEATEDLY AT US, as if we had the ability to move out of the way! I witnessed mothers and fathers shielding their children with their bodied in the attempt to keep their children from being hit from the vehicles…I still can't believe the insanity of this whole experience. Obviously, I never got into the Inauguration.
- Nikki

7:12 a.m.
:Here is where we were stuck at noon when we heard the gun salute telling us we had missed the inauguration. We were near 1st and Louisiana Ave where we had been waiting in line since around 7. Except that there was no line, just a mass of people jam-packed together. No directions, no signs, no information was given to any of us.

We had worked on the campaign and were thrilled to have gotten tickets from our Representative. We travelled from Wisconsin and put aside important time and work. What was supposed to be the high experience of our lives didn't happen. We were crushed. Still trying to come to terms with it.

- Margaret & Paul

5:42 a.m.
: Let me begin by saying I had a great time in D.C., but I was incredibly disappointed when I couldn't get in or even hear the ceremony. At 11 a.m., we finally gave up, when those at the front of the line started moving back through the crowd. As they traveled back, they told us that the gate was closed and that security was letting no one in. They had no idea why. At no time did anyone get on a bull horn to let people know what was happening. Had someone done so, perhaps we could have found a place to watch the ceremony.

My friend and I headed to Arlington Cemetery instead to honor those who had offered the ultimate sacrifice for our country. To address my rising anger and disappointment and to search for perspective, I stood at the Eternal Flame, pondering President Kennedy's words: ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country. As the canons fired and the music sounded, I was somehow able to find peace and thank those who had made the supreme sacrifice for all of us.

There were thousands of disappointed people, including me. But my heart broke especially for the African Americans who had lived through segregation and the civil rights movement only to be denied access to one of the most important events of our lifetime.

Someone screwed up. And I'd like to know who and why. This morning I found myself thinking that it would be wonderful if those with Purple and Blue tickets were somehow given their own audience with our newest President.
- Vanessa

12:54 a.m.
:My name is Evan and I am fellow survivor of Ticket-gate. I've attached a photo I took of the 3rd street tunnel featuring the icicles that were common throughout.

Have you heard reports of damages due to the crowd? I noticed a light fixture broken on the building at the corner of 1st and Louisiana avenue. Also the only Capitol policeman around during the final rush to the gate was protecting a stop light at 1st and Cst that was being damaged by the crowd being pushed against it.

I'm very glad that this story is getting out because we all very lucky to have walked away safe.

If you have any questions or want more pictures, please let me know.

- Evan

January 21

11:49 p.m:
To: feedback@jccic.senate.gov

Dear Ms. Feinstein:

I read on the Purple Tunnel Facebook page that you are looking for people's personal accounts of their experience in the 3rd St. tunnel.

I wrote a blog post about my experience. Please take the time to read it:
- Lonnee

10:14 p.m.: Like so many others, my wife and I stood for four hours in line with tickets in hand waiting to get into a Blue Gate that would never be open to us. I've attached a few photos I took to catch my most disappointing moment - that moment when they officially closed the gate. We held out hope with those around us until the very end that the promise the ticket offered would somehow be honored. - Matthew

9:33 p.m.
My husband, who is 81, and I traveled by Greyhound Bus from Syracuse to attend the Inaugural. We had Blue tickets from our Congressman and arrived at 8:10 am at what was supposedly the line for Blue ticket holders. There was no Uniform staff of any kind in sight. We were there until 11:55 am when we realized that we were not going to get into our designated area.

So many people standing with us walked away. Some said they were going to try and watch the parade. - Sybil

6:37 p.m. : I was one of the blue ticket holders denied entrance to the ceremony. I was standing with two staffers from Sen. Spector's office who also did not get in and was just in front of a young lady from Hawaii who had saved from her work in fast food for months to fly to DC. She burst into tears and asked the police officer what she had done wrong to be denied entrance. I asked the same question. One police officer told me that I had arrived too late. I got there at 7 a.m. Another officer told me that there were too many blue tickets issued. That cannot possibly be true.

On the other hand, I would like to offer my congratulations to the staff of the DC Metro who kept the crowds informed and issued instructions: “Move On Up” when the stairs were open enough to accommodate people and “Red Light” when people needed to wait until the stairs were cleared.
- Mary

10:12 a.m. : There was never at any point in time a line. Masses of people were just crowded together like cattle. There were people who stood in a make-shift line for two hours to find out that it really was not a line. People in their frustration after standing there for 4 or more hours began to push aside the barriers. When they pushed the barriers, it was obvious that there was no crowd control and the officers were overwhelmed and had to have rapid help to maintain the barrier. At that point, they slammed the gate and told the crowd, "Go to the Mall."

As a person who got in, I was appalled at how people were treated by the officers. When I walked over to where the blue ticket holders were inside the inauguration gates, I was shocked at how much room and the lack of crowding. There was plenty of space in the blue section. There was not a problem of too many ticket holders. I was sick to my stomach regarding the faces of those on the other side of the gate who were just dismissed. There was space for the people who were excluded.

I am glad that the security procedures protected President Obama, but the people experienced a highly disorganized "Katrina-like" experience from Metro to the experience of the ticket holders. A Disney consultant could have helped organize the management of the crowd and you might consider that in the future.

I wish I had memories of a great experience, but I still remember the mothers separated from their children and older disabled people being pushed and overwhelmed by hours of crowding, which could have been prevented by a simple line. The people were the losers in the "People's Inauguration.”
- Frances

8:18 a.m.
: As one of the thousands of blue ticket holders who stood in line patiently, it was heartbreaking to be so close and not be able to hear or see the Inauguration. I was in line for four hours and was astonished that no one ever came by to tell us why the line wasn't moving or what was happening ahead of us. We just wanted to know if we could get in or not and all we heard was hundreds around us telling their stories and questioning why the orange line was moving and we were stopped. I now live here but it was my first inauguration and while the crowds were wonderful, it was devastating to realize that thousands from out of town who only flew or drove here because they had tickets weren't going to be able to see the inauguration.
- Kate

4:50 a.m.: Absolutely NO ONE who got in the purple ticket line after 6 a.m. got into the ticket area. People in line further ahead (the 5:30 crowd) told us there was a security breach at the gate and they shut it down, but no one ever came and told the crowd that stretched back deep into the tunnel. If they had to shut the gate, they should have let us know so we would have had time to disperse to other locations to at least get to a TV. It was very dangerous. There was no communication, no police or other directing presence, and a crushing mob could easily have developed. I mean can you imagine trying to get all of Redskins stadium through one gate, leaving the football crowd in line for 4 to 5 hours, and then just not telling them the gates have been locked and the game is still going on? It was also so sad to see all of the people who had traveled from so far, and especially all the staffers in this line who had dedicated years of their lives to the campaign not be able to get in to see the final result of their hard work.

I don't know where that "official source” who said more than 200,000 people were happy was, but he or she certainly wasn't in the tunnel for 4 hours with the tens of thousands of us purple ticket holders who were left out in the cold.
- Janet

January 20

9:07 p.m.: We arrived at 7:45 AM in below freezing temperatures and stood in an orderly line with the other blue ticket invitees. After 3 hours and 15 minutes of suffering in the cold, we were told that the gates were being locked and that we would not be allowed entry. I would estimate that there were several thousand people in the Blue line that were denied entry even though they had Invitations and tickets from the Official Committee. We had an opportunity during the over three hours we spent in line, to speak with many of the people that were shivering in the cold, but waiting patiently and excitedly to see the Swearing-In of President Barack Obama. We learned that many of these people had traveled great distances at considerable expense and had done so assuming that since they had requested and received their invitations and tickets prior to their departure from home, they would be able to experience and be a part of this historic event. My heart goes out to those people who gave up so much of their time, resources and energy, who traveled so far with tickets in hand, and who were so summarily dismissed and denied access with little or no explanation to an event that was so important to them. - Annie

8:02 p.m.: I would estimate at least 8000 people waiting at the blue gate alone who were not allowed in. The line just never moved. The crowd just crammed tighter and tighter toward the fenced gate. My wife and I were there with our tickets and there was ZERO attempt at crowd control or communication. I saw a total of 2 security people the entire time. One was a Marine with a walkie-talkie who said he wasn't assigned to this area but was trying to get police to come. The other was what looked like a private rent-a-cop in blue, who basically just yelled at people trying to cut ahead in line. Neither had any information about why the line wasn't moving, though the Marine assured us the gate would keep letting people through, so don't worry. - Seth

7:41 p.m.: I was pleased to hear that the police representative amended his statement about all ticketed people getting in. I'm not one to shy from crowds, and expected things to be crowded. However the complete lack of organization, security presence outside the ticketed area and any updates or information from persons affiliated with the event were shocking. After 5 hours of waiting with no information or progress the crowd was angry and bitter. The police are lucky that despite this there were no stampedes or violent activity as they had next to no presence in the area as the crowd angrily chanted "let us in" and "purple." By noon, when we gave up, many had already left and at least several hundred were still waiting. - Denise

7:14 p.m.: My family drove here from Arkansas to see the inauguration. We had blue tickets. We, like thousands of others, were denied access...240,000 tickets (all colors) were issued. At 9 a.m. the security gates opened. Therefore, within 3 hours, 240,000 number of people had to be processed through security. That's 80,000 people per hour, or 1,330 people per minute that had to be processed through security. Officials cannot justly blame "crowds" for the problems with the admission of ticket holders. They knew the number of ticket holders - all that had to be done was plan accordingly by having the requisite capacity of security screeners. - Brian

6:25 p.m.: I had a blue ticket, arrived with my family at seven in the morning, and was left crushed (emotionally and physically) by 11:15 a.m. The problem wasn't that there too were many people, the problem was that there wasn't ANYONE managing the line, and so an orderly line became, well ... disorderly. Then it turned into a crowd. Meanwhile no one was keeping the crowd updated, and so it just became more and more packed and desperate … I found it breathtakingly offensive. Someone screwed up, and the first (and possibly only) step towards making it right is for the people responsible to admit it. They had a hard task, but it's not like they didn't have time to think about it. - David

6:21 p.m.: We had silver tickets and waited in line for several hours. We were less than a block from the gate when word got around that they had stopped letting people in. ... People started chanting "let us in" while waving tickets. Eventually the mood turned to disappointment. Then suddenly, everyone started moving. We had no clue why or how, but no one was going through any security, all the barriers were down and ticketholders and the public were going into the silver area behind the pool. We were so lucky and got in where we were supposed to be, but there were surely many behind who did not. … Once we got in, we had a fabulous time. But I know we were some of the lucky ones, and it just seemed like really poor planning. It is sad so many who thought they would get in missed history. - Brittany

6:17 p.m.: My friends and I walked from Lincoln Park to the closest designated entrance for parade ticket holders in time to arrive at 6 a.m. (7th and D NW streets). We waited until a little after 9 a.m. At one point, the police lost control of the crowd and people ran down 7th St. It was a wonder no one was trampled. This occurred because the police decided to try to make way for two buses of people who were marching in the parade. We then gave up and went to 9th St and D and were told by a PIC credentialed employee that the reason no one could enter 7th St was because of a water main break. (Of course, no one told the 10,000 people still waiting on 7th St.) We were advised to go over to 10th St at D streets. We waited at 10th St and saw a trickle of people come in, but we decided that we wouldn’t be able to get in before the parade started, so we gave up and walked back to the Hill. While I am thrilled that so many people wanted to celebrate and I loved that nearly everyone we met was in a good mood, I am stunned at the poor organization and communication today among law enforcement and inaugural organizers. The law enforcement we spoke with were as much in the dark as we were. No one used a loudspeaker to inform the crowd. And I’m out $150. I can’t tell you how disappointing it was to get home and see on TV lots of EMPTY bleacher seats on the parade route that I paid for. I have to believe that our new President will be embarrassed when he reads your story. - John

6:03 p.m.: Unfortunately, the poor planning and lack of communications about getting peope onto the Mall really made our day difficult, and even worse for our out-of-town guests. We almost didn't get on the mall; our guests had an unnecessary hour-long walk and never got in to the ceremony at all. ... We then waited in the line for silver tickets, which was at least 8 blocks long, for at least two hours without it moving at all. It didn't move until after 10 a.m., even though the security gate was supposed to open at 8 a.m. Then it moved quite briskly until we were within sight of the gate, when it slowed down. By 10:30 a.m. it looked like we wouldn't get in; the crowd stayed in a good mood but started waving tickets and chanting let us in. Suddenly, at 11:28 a.m., the authorities said okay, we'll let you in. ... It was disturbing that ultimately we all got in without going through any security clearance, and no one ever checked our tickets. It was even more disturbing that there was no obvious method of screening us -- when we went past, we couldn't see any security equipment at all. It would be really good to know when security gates opened and closed, what they were supposed to do, and what they really did. - Deborah

5:50 p.m.: The problem was that, at about 10:45 a.m., the security screening system at the blue gate broke down, so officers had to search people by hand. This slowed an already barely inching forward rate to a wait 20 minutes, then move a foot rate. I was in line by 8 a.m., and waited three-and-a -alf hours before giving up. Today's inauguration was a disgrace to the security, police, government, and the nation.

5:39 p.m.: I live and work on Capitol Hill, so my disappointment in not getting in is tempered by the fact that I'll have the chance to see President Obama and his team at work up close. The real shame is the disappointment felt by the people I huddled in the cold with for hours - those from Wyoming, California, Utah and even Alaska, who travelled across the country to share in this moment. They turned away dejected and let down. -- Neil

5:36 p.m.: I worked on the campaign and I work on the Hill. I had purple tickets. There was no crowd control when we were out there at the crack of dawn, resulting in a dangerous, disorganized mess. I have never wanted to see police more than I did while being squeezed and squished in a furious crowd of ticket holders who just wanted what they were there for.

5:29 p.m.: The Capitol police created a dangerous situation in the purple area. There were no volunteers or police outside the gate. There was no crowd control. They risked crushing people. A street lamp cracked and was at risk of falling on the crowd and they did nothing. People asked for medics and were ignored. We got there at 6:30 a.m. and got in at 11:50 a.m. They are lucky there were no injuries. It was shameful. --Thais

4:46 p.m.: I had tickets to the purple North Standing section. My husband got in line at 6:30 and shuffled far back into the D street tunnel. I tried to join him at 8:30 a.m. and became stuck in the 1st St./C St./Louisiana corridor by Jones Day. When they opened the gates, I got stuck in the crush of people which got tighter and tighter as the crowd pushed their way towards the entrance. I am five months pregnant and the experience was completely terrifying…

4:37 p.m.: I, along with literally thousands of other silver ticket holders did not get in. Instead of the four to five silver ticket checkpoints advertised, there ended up being only one. I had intentionally exited metro at Judiciary Square at around 8 a.m. to get to the checkpoint that the tickets said would open at 9 a.m. By word of mouth (no signs and no police assistance), I discovered that I had to cross through the auto tunnel and all the way over to Federal Center SW, where only one gate would be open. A line stretched for literally six blocks, and I stood in it until 10:45, at which point we were in sight of the silver gate…I decided to cut my losses and caught the metro home. No one was telling the crowd a thing and no one was directing or supervising the crowd in any way. There was literally no one in charge. The utter failure of today falls largely on the DC Police, who were almost non-existent. The largest concentration of police I saw were congregated in the tunnel between Judiciary Square and Federal Center SW, where they were running their vehicles, sitting inside of them, and literally drinking coffee and eating donuts. --Sam

4:03 p.m.: Two friends and I had blue tickets for the event. We arrived on the Hill at approximately 7:30 a.m. and stayed in line until 11:30 when we finally gave up hope. There was no organization whatsoever, no one was in charge, everyone was confused and there was absolutely no end in sight. Meanwhile orange ticket holders were quickly and efficiently ushered to their seats. What gives? -- Sarah

3:46 p.m.: I am a congressional staffer and one of thousands of Blue Ticketholders for the Inauguration ceremony that did not make in. I waited for hours and the Blue Gate was mass chaos…Everyone there was in the right place, i.e. blue ticketholders were at the blue gate, but the capitol police would not let anyone in the whole morning, the line didn't move very much. Everyone there just wanted to be a part of history and celebrate this historic moment, but the Capitol Police cheated us out of that opportunity and robbed thousands of it, even though we all had tickets. Today is one of the saddest and most disappointing days of my life.

2:57 p.m.: I read that the chief of Capitol Police now says there was a surge as the last people were coming in through the purple and silver gates. Not true. There were people standing in line starting at 4 am and they never opened the purple checkpoint until 11 am. I brought in family from Alaska. We had both purple and silver tickets. We all missed the entire ceremony because they would not let us in. Please hold them accountable for this.

2:38 p.m.: I was assigned to the Blue section - and was on the verge of getting screened when Capitol Police abruptly closed the gates. People threw barricades, threw themselves, and tried to do everything they could to keep the gates open, but I can see why Capitol Police were trying to close the gates. There was plenty of screaming, warnings and threats being issued by Guardsmen and police officers to folks (and vice-versa) …People were cutting to the front of the line, and early on, the security personnel were doing NOTHING to stop people from jumping ahead. It was about 10:30 or so before they brought on someone to turn people away. Meanwhile, there was no semblance or an attempt to create a barricaded line anywhere - it was a free-for-all at best. Tens of thousands of people on my side of the Capitol were denied entry and couldn't see a good chunk of the ceremony…I arrived at 6am. Metro access was smooth compared to what was going on in our part of the inauguration. Metro and Capitol security planned this poorly - they opened up both Federal Center SW and Capitol South to deal with Blue section overflow, creating a logjam from two different directions. It was a mess, but I think it was more like the perfect storm.-- Andrew

2:09 p.m.: Ticket holders were directed to the 3rd Street tunnel into a line that stretched all the way from the tunnel opening at 3rd and D to the ramp to the tunnel from the SW freeway. There was no police presence in the tunnel (with the exception of police motorcades speeding dangerously close to people waiting in the tunnel) to provide crowd control or information to the thousands waiting. Eventually, after most in the crowd had spend hours waiting, word got around that the purple gates had been closed. At that point people made their way back to 3rd and D, where they had entered, and simply ended up on the street -- again with no police presence or information. It was only the general goodwill of the crowd that kept things form getting ugly, which could have easily happened given the huge level of disappointment after the realization that the tickets and hours of waiting were useless. All in all, it was a stunning failure for the inaugural committee and US Capitol Police -- absolutely disgraceful.

1:30 p.m.: My sister, my wife and I have purple north tickets. My wife and I flew in from Houston to Philadelphia, and drove down. We did not get in… We started waiting "in line" (more of a scrum) about 6:40 at 1st and D. We were redirected once, just before 9, to D and New Jersey (where the "Purple Gate" sign was), where a line had formed along the security cordon down Louisiana. Not wanted to cut, we tried to find the end of this, but did in fact 'merge' into the middle of this "line"; people in this line (which had formed starting at or before 4:15), didn't get in as of 11:30, when we left to return to my sister's apartment…I'm really extremely disappointed by the lack of signage, and the fact that no-one thought to equip peace officers with bull-horns. It seems basic when dealing with large crowds, no?-- David

11:20 a.m.: It seems a dangerous situation.

By Washington Post Editors  |  January 20, 2009; 4:50 PM ET  | Category:  Tickets
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I have never been more angered that I was this morning. I was a purple ticket holder and got out of the Judiciary Sq. metro at 7am. There were no signs telling people where to go just crowds - lots and lots of crowds. I even asked a DC police officer for help who's response was "I have no answers" (repeated several times). The ticket said the entry point was at D and Constitution so we made our way over to 1st and D. We were jammed into a huge crowd of people for over two hours. Half the people there were purple holders so we thought we were in the right spot - the other half were silver holders who said that they had been told by police to come to this entrance (WRONG INFORMATION). 2 hours later a police officer finally shows up with a mic and informs us that we're in the wrong place and that the line had formed over on 2nd street - by the time we got there the line stretched through the second street tunnel. We never even got to the end of the line - by 10:30 we caught our loses and went back to a bar so we could at least see and hear. There were no speakers or TVs or any information. My parents were in the orange section and had no problems because it was organized. Because of DC's lack of preparation the experience was ruined by many.

Posted by: FrancescaT | January 20, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

We had a great experience today. We took metro from U Street to L'Enfant around 7:00 and it was fine. L'Enfant was crowded, but we moved out of the station in about 10 minutes. We had silver tickets and had no problem getting into the area. In fact, there was plenty of room in our area. Everyone was in good spirits. The only problem was when we were leaving - at Independence and 12th - there was major congestion. Everything else was fine.

One other thing, the DC police were much better than Capitol Police and the "military" folks. DC police and metro police gave accurate directions and were friendly. The other police forces and the military had no idea where to direct people and were generally lost.

Posted by: todd27 | January 20, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

It was a disgraceful showing by the D.C. Police and the Inaugeral organizers. People who simply wanted direction as to which line to stand in with their tickets to wait their turn were misdirected and/or ignored and treated like unwanted protesters.

Posted by: RCFillmore | January 20, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

I was the holder of two cursed purple tickets. We waited in line for two hours. The most potentially dangerous part was waiting in a packed underground freeway tunnel filled with people. There were no porta potties anywhere where people were waiting. The organizers are just plain LUCKY that nothing really terrible happened. We got close to the gate, only to be turned away.

I have worked on this campaign for almost two years and I wasn't able to see the Inauguration. I'm heartbroken.

Posted by: denamom | January 20, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm hearing a lot about Swearing-in ticket holders turned away, but I was among many people with parade tickets turned away. At the entrances on the southern side of Penn. the many police said simply Too Bad - tickets or no tickets, we were not getting in, even 3 hrs before the parade. What's worst, the Secret Service is now claiming that they didn't close the parade route - what liars!!!

Posted by: junk101 | January 20, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

My father and I both had blue tickets as well and never made it inside. We arrived at the gates around 9am, which is what was stated on our tickets. They did not even open the gates until around 10. Then, the crowd was so immense and moving so slowly that we never made it too far. They had one main gate for people to go through,and then several screeners checking bags and such. After getting about halfway to the entry gate (around 11:45am) they closed the gates. So many people were turned away. Definitely several hundred, maybe even a thousand. How completely disappointing. How could they have blundered this so badly?

Posted by: kcox2 | January 20, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

I had a purple ticket, was in line by 5am and still did not make it through the checkpoint. There was no direction or crowd control, no one seemed to know what was going on. Thankfully I made friends with someone who had a small portable tv and a group of us ended up listening to the event next to the fence. It's just a shame that so many people, who in the purple section at least seemed to be campaign or DNC staff, were unable to fully experience the day.

Posted by: kpeterlin | January 20, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Capitol Police in the purple area did not supply any crowd control outside the gates, provided zero information, no volunteers were outside of the gates and I witnessed them ignoring please for medical assistance as well as ignoring a street light that was about to fall on the crowd. They are shameful -- they did not care about the safety of the attendees.

Posted by: MVTer | January 20, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

I have never been so callously lied to and misdirected by local police and military (as a unit) in my life. I arrived at 7th and E at 4:15am. They told us that we could enter the Mall area at 5am. A little before 5am, they let us in, down to 7th and D (1.5 blocks from Pennsylvania). They claimed we'd be let in at 7am. They lied. I spent almost 5 hours waiting on E Street, the last two hours of that in bone crushing crowds. Security perimeter forces insisted that this was the ONLY type of route (one of several similar parallel street paths) to get to the Mall at 4:15am. At 10am, I finally made it through security to arrive at the parade route on Penn, but they wouldn't let us cross the street to the Mall. They misdirected us to an non-existent 14th street entry for the Mall. They lied about us being able to cross the street at 11am. This shifted to a lie about being admitted at 3rd street to the Mall at 11am. Lies! Lies! Running around in circles because of security lies. I got on the Metro and went home at 11:30am-in absolute disgust. I wasn't a ticket holder, but arriving at 4:15 was to give me a standing view on the Mall or at least a photo op from the Mall beauty. It should have been easy--a no brainer. Just walk as the early bird.

Posted by: NChurch | January 20, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I had a Purple ticket. Thought I was luckier than the "masses" without tickets. I started waiting in the purple ticket line around 8:00am on the north side of the 395 Tunnel. After 2 hours of barely moving, soon after I finally got out of the tunnel and started towards the purple gate, I saw people walking the other way saying the gate was closed...Long story short - I didn't get in and what should have been a joyous day was tainted by frustration and disapointment. I couldn't see a thing or hear anything. I called my mother in Oregon on the phone who put the phone by the TV so I could here Obama's speach. I know I'm not alone, because there were at least a thousand people behind me in the line in the 395 Tunnel..."Disappointment" is an understatment.

Posted by: captandyhunt | January 20, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Oops. It was nearly 6 hours--not five. What a bummer.

Posted by: NChurch | January 20, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I were attending the Inauguration for our honeymoon. We both worked on the Obama campaign and were excited beyond belief to be a part of this event. Unfortunately, we were one of those couples with purple tickets. Had we realized that we were going to be turned away, we would have tried to grab a spot on the Mall. Instead, we waited in the "purple tunnel of doom" for 4 hours only to hear later that if we'd shown up at 10am, we would have been able to walk inside without a problem. Where did all the organization go? There was no police presence and no guard presence. I just don't understand what went horribly wrong.

Posted by: fhfred | January 20, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

The Capitol Police were really incompetent. I was a purple ticket holder and there was no indication that an alternate entrance was created or why they were letting no one in. There were at least 300 purple holders still at the gate waiting from 11:15 to 12:00 (after hundreds more had left frustrated). Most ridiculous was when a Capitol Police officer yelled, "only purple ticket holders here" and literally everyone held up their purple tickets and yelled back "we are all purple." No communication, no signage. Of course, the CP will claim all went swimmingly and no one will be held accountable. how many months did they have to prepare for this?

Posted by: mf_string | January 20, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Our friends were purple ticket holders. After waiting in line for 3 hours, they were turned away.

It is very disappointing that the organizers did not have an adequate number of checkpoints to accommodate all ticket-holders. I am sure that the organizers of the inauguration were trying their best, but they let a lot of people down today.

Posted by: marenmatal | January 20, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Despite conflicting reports as to the number of pedestrian walkways and entry gates, my family and I made it to the 3rd St SW SILVER GATE at 7:30. We finally found our places at the end of the line about four blocks away a few minutes later. Over the next 2.5 hours, we inched forward covering about two of those four blocks. At approximately 10:00, we were relieved to see that the line had begun to move at a brisk pace until we realized that it had only collapsed and that we had become just a few members of a large, unorganized crowd being denied entry despite holding tickets. No information was provided. No instructions were given. We stood in confusion jockeying for a position to see what could be going on ahead. As fears grew that we may be denied entry once the inauguration had begun (10:55ish), I worked my way to the front to ask one of the many idle police officers what the situation was. "Are they honoring silver tickets, is anyone getting through?" The police officer's response - "I don't know, I'm just a motorcycle cop. If I were you, I'd just sneak across the street. I won't stop you." Without much trouble, that's just what we did. As we made our way to the mall, I looked back to see all the other silver ticket holders pressed up against the guard rails looking at half a block of open space ahead. A few knocked down fences and jumped barriers later, we finally made it to the silver ticketed section...in time for the inauguration.

Posted by: machinekings | January 20, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

On a day when I should be celebrating a great achievement for our nation, I find myself sorely disappointed with the treatment that I experienced as one of thousands of ill-fated Purple Ticket holders as we waited for our chance to witness history unfold on the Capital grounds. I, along with many others, stood patiently less than one block from the Purple Gate from 5:30am until noon, only to be turned away, tickets still in hand. This afternoon, as I viewed satellite images of the ceremony, I couldn't help but notice the Purple section stood empty, while all other sections were filled to the brim.

As a resident of the DC area, I understand that sometimes security issues arise that prevent public events from running as planned. However, as frustrated as I was that I missed out on a fantastic opportunity, I was more upset at the failure of event staff to communicate with the crowd regarding the situation and the complete absence of police or security personnel to control the burgeoning masses. On several occasions, I was honestly concerned that I would be trampled as the crowd surged forward with nowhere to go. Later, I learned that I was one of the lucky ones - at least I spent the morning above ground, unlike the thousands of others trapped in the First Street Tunnel.

Moreover, as I listened to the stories of the people around me who had come from across the country to witness this day, I was sadden and ashamed that my city handled what was already an unfortunate circumstance with so little empathy for those whose had put forth such significant effort to celebrate with us on this special day.

Posted by: nicla915 | January 20, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

My friends and I were incredibly disappointed not to have seen the Inauguration. We waited from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the gloomy tunnel that was PACKED with luckily very good natured people. No police came into the tunnel and there was no information being shared at any point about what was happening. We had to rely on rumors from our fellow tunnelers. The real sad part is that three of my friends came in for the Inauguration from Hawaii. We saw thousands of people go by us to the end of the line -- old, young, people in wheelchairs . . . for ultimately no reason at all. What a disappointment.

Posted by: sharong1 | January 20, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

SIlver Ticket Holder who is a DC Resident:

My husband stood in line for 1.5 hours to get our coveted (or at least what we thought) ticket. HOWEVER, IT DID NOT MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHAT SO EVER!!!! I went down with my family at 9:45 AM thinking that we had more than enough time to get to the gate since we were ticket holders. I NEVER thought that I would see the level of disorganization in my beloved city. When I finally made my way through the 3rd Street tunnel, I did not see any signs for the Silver Gate, only signs for the Blue Gate. When I finally got close enough to the Blue Gate, it was SHEER MADNESS and I truly was nervous for what was brewing in the air. It was definitely going beyond frustration to anger as people had been standing in line since 7AM WITH a ticket who could not get in.

I have been a Washingtonian for 18 years and I truly hope DC does not try to cover up what happened; how a We are One DAY, how A People's inauguration WAS a Dream for a select few and a NIGHTMARE for the most of us. I especially feel extremely bad for the people who travelled from Alaska and California; hell anywhere aside from living here from DC to see this historic event and could not get in!!

Chief Morse may God help your Soul for being such a deceptive liar!!

Posted by: tlm_davis | January 20, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

I stood in line for six hours trying to get to seats in bleachers for the parade. Like others have explained there was little to know organization, rude and power mongering police officers, and volunteers completely lacking information. Will say the plus side was the positive attitude of the people around me. But in for the 2012 election, I will happily be watching inauguration celebrations from the comfort of my living room.

Posted by: thislittlebee | January 20, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

My friend and I had blue tickets. To sum up, it just seemed like chaos. We were really impressed with how efficiently the Metro staff moved us through the metro, but when we got to the street we found ourselves wandering around trying to figure out where to go. There was no one to direct us, and it was almost a mob scene in front of the blue gate (especially around 11 am, when it seemed people were getting more frustrated and impatient). We left and tried to find some place to watch the inauguration, the best we found was a spot near the Air and Space museum to listen. At least I just lost a day of wandering around and standing in lines. I felt really bad for people that we spoke to who had traveled long distances and left seeing nothing. I just want answers, why give out tickets only to have people seriously disappointed?

Posted by: laostic | January 20, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Both those who issued tickets and those who managed security at the purple gate really blew this one. I was one of the thousands stuck under the mall in the 395 tunnel for almost three hours, purple ticket in hand. The only way myself, and those around me, were made aware of the situation at the gate was via telephone calls from a friend who was near the front of the line at the purple gate (corner of 1st and Louisiana). As the the opening time on our tickets passed (9am), she reported to us that nobody was even being let in at the gate as thousands waited stretching 1.5 miles behind. Not until well past 10am was she, beginning at the front of the line, able to make it onto the Mall. Why was the purple gate marred by such incompetence, apparently issuing too many tickets, then neither giving explanation nor a prompt gate opening to the thousands who waited hours for this historic event?

Posted by: jffs | January 20, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

I am so heartbroken to have been denied entry to the Blue Standing area today. My friend and I got in line at 7:00 am, only to stand in place for nearly 4 hours while a total scene of chaos erupted around us. There were two or three cops more concerned about getting cars through the crowd than trying to manage the massive and (at first) well-behaved crowd. They watched the lines dissolve into a giant bottleneck of thousands of confused ticket-holder. You should be ashamed, Capitol Hill Police. My friend spent a lot of time and money to come from Georgia to see her dream fulfilled. We felt so helpless.

Posted by: mhahn2 | January 20, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

I am a DC native who now lives in Boise, ID. The inaction of the Capitol Police around the Purple Gate was shameful. Our Boise police could have handled the situation better. I had a purple ticket that I worked so hard to get, took time off from work and paid my own way here. I got in line at 5:30 AM. We were told to line up all the way down D Street and into the tunnel. For FIVE hours we dutifully waited there, seeing a crowd gather at 1st and D as different ticket holders converged in confusion. When police were asked to help clear the crowd so we could get through, they responded that it wasn't "their corner." NO POLICE were there. People just waited and waited patiently in the freezing cold, but nothing happened. At 10:30 the crowd surged, only to be trapped behind a barricade that had been set up in the direct line of the gate. Meanwhile THOUSANDS of other people who came later were allowed to stream down from Union Station and get into the Purple Gate. We had to watch behind barricades. If a few officers had just come with bullhorns and instructed people to go around a different corner everyone could have gotten in instead of being trapped. The police could see what was going on and did nothing. We watched behind a barricade as thousands went into our gate, while those who had been there for SIX HOURS were shut out. This was an easy problem to solve--I am afraid for a city that has police so inept. I am so upset at the police--they are not telling the truth when they say it was the crowd's fault--it was not. We were standing right where they told us to, and waiting quietly.

Posted by: mfranklin2 | January 20, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

We came in from Wisconsin. Waited 1-1/2 hours for tickets. Today, we waited in Purple line 4 hours and when we feared getting crushed, we worked our way out. On our way to find a TV, we stumbled upon the Yellow gate where they let us in and we were in to watch the swearing in. However, we were lucky and our hearts go out to those who didn't get in. Getting around DC after was a bust! While Obama's slogan is YES WE CAN - the City of DC's was NO YOU CAN'T. Couldn't even get into Union station to take our train back to VA because they closed it to prepare for a ball. Can you imagine closing the hub of transportation on the busiest day of the year? It didn't ruin the day - but what an emotional rollercoaster ride!

Posted by: nancya1 | January 20, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I were among the thousands constituting probably the most genial, docile crowd I have ever been in--the Purple Ticket crowd. It was like a bizarre slow-motion dream on the other side of the ridiculous overkill of a fence. Long story short--we never got in, never heard a thing other than the roar of the distant crowd at noon and the 21-gun salute. I live in DC, so I'm not feeling sorry for myself--I had a nice time talking with people and sharing the moment. I feel bad for the people who came hundreds or thousands of miles to participate in the swearing in of the new president and got treated so shabbily. I don't know who should be ashamed, but it was a disgrace.

Posted by: timweber | January 20, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Add me to the list of purple ticket holders frustrated at the handling of the situation. When I arrived at the designated entrance point (Louisiana & 1st NW)at around 7:30 am, there was no indication of where or what to do, and police on hand couldn't answer any questions. We attempted to form a line behind other ticket holders, but finally got to the point where we couldn't walk any further and ended up in a mob of people. There was pushing and shoving, particularly as time drew nearer for the ceremony. People were coming from all directions, creating a massive immobile mob. People were generally good natured--and just wanted to know what to do. At one point, someone needed medical assistance, and police ignored the crowd to go inside a building to warm up. It was, in a word, chaos. I was truly worried at one point that people would be crushed/trampled, particularly the elderly/children in the area. It seemed to me that the security gates, supposed to open at 8 am, weren't opened at all until around 11:30. I just consider myself lucky that I wasn't one of the people stuck in the 3rd St tunnel! I did eventually make it in...but only after hours of discomfort.

Posted by: plangal | January 20, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

My mother and I came from Oregon to be a part of this historic event. I worked for the Obama campaign and continue to be a part of community organizing in Oregon. We were blue ticket holders arriving as others had at 6:00am. We weren't let into the Inauguration despite having our blue tickets in hand, because of the inept and non-existent actions of the Capitol Police. Many of us pleaded the only officer near us to bring more police and help with crowd management. We waited in a line that didn't move for hours. The police misdirected us multiple times, mismanaged the crowd and truly had no idea what was going on. It was chaos. It was awful. With By 1130am when we were still anywhere near the only security checkpoint the crowd became really ugly and started crushing people ahead of them. The police did nothing. We traveled over 2000 miles - to be here in DC. We weren't allowed to see the Inauguration!

Posted by: dawn8 | January 20, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

The only thing more irritating than waiting in line for several hours at the Blue Gate only to be turned away are the comments of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer and U.S. Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse. These are examples of scapegoating at its finest. A simple and sincere mea culpa probably would diffuse the frustration of the many thousands of ticketholders who were refused entry. Instead, we're told that the problem was "bulky winter clothing." (What did they expect in mid-January -- shorts and tee-shirts?) Those responsible for manning the security gates and managing the lines were woefully understaffed. When the power to the metal detectors went out, there seemed to be only a handful of officers conducting the hand-searching at the front of the line. What's truly remarkable is that there seemed to be either no effort or no ability to bring in additional screeners (or to secure another generator). Moreover, there seemed to be a massive breakdown in communication, as evidenced by the fact that Chief Morse was telling the media that everyone with a ticket had made it inside at the same time as thousands of us were still waiting to get inside. An independent, disinterested assessment of what went wrong here is needed.

Posted by: PeterB1 | January 20, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Facebook group forming at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=47452382217

Posted by: nashpaul | January 20, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Are story, while not happy, is not as bad because we could see the writing was on the wall and aborted fairly early.
We arrived at the Blue Gate at 7:30 and were met with the same level of chaos.
I really imagined a nice cordoned off area with an orderly queue. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Instead it was a sea of people. No lines, almost like an octopus with 8 legs, legs made up of people in every which direction.
By 9:30 we had moved maybe 35 feet. It was apparent, we would not get in.
The innocence of the ticket holders was adorable. We heard "they will push it back if they know we aren't in" (Constitution be damned) to an upbeat "we will get in".
We started the long trek to the Lincoln Memorial if necessary.
We were able to perch near the Monument and could at least see the dome along with a Jumbotron.
If you want this to never happen again then you have to let your Representative know what happened to you.
You can say I am not mad at you, but I want you to know how thoroughly incompetently this operation was run, and I want you to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Posted by: thundermustard | January 20, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Disappointed is definitely an understatement from what I experienced today.
Like millions of others, I was in a very upbeat and optimistic mood going to the inauguration this morning. I was feeling very lucky having a "blue" ticket.
Everything changed when I arrived. A volunteer directed my friend and I to a line for blue ticketholders- a very long line that wrapped around the Dept of Health and Human Services Building. Being still upbeat, we were dutiful citizens and stood in line. A line that barely moved. An hour later, the line started picking up speed then we realized the line disappaered with everyone left confused. You heard of the bridge to no where - we were on a line to no where.
Suddenly it became a free for all, people were still lining up around the Dept of Health building without anyone watching over ir organizing it.
My friend and I realized, many people have already cut in line and went straight to the gate. Once we got there, it was just a mob scene. People packed shoulder to shoulder.
We moved like penguins for the next couple of hours. Many remained polite and optimistic still believing we could get in.
But it became obvious we we're not especially after the Capitol Police closed the Blue gate. People started chanting "Let us in, let us in" to no avail.
I consider myself lucky because I only came from Baltimore. I met people in line who came from Hawaii and Boston. People who wrote to their congressman for a ticket. And after they paid for an airline ticket to DC and paid for a hotel room, they never made it in.
I'm beyond disappointed and beyond feeling heartbroken. I was hoping to be like millions of Americans feeling inspired today after watching Barack Obama deliver his inauguration speech. Instead I didn't see or hear it. I can't even watch the clips on TV now because everytime I see the crowd of people who were there it upsets me thinking I could have been one of them.
So now, if someone asks me where was I when history was made on Jan 20, 2009? My answer will be: "I was stuck in line with thousands of strangers on C Street yards away from the game that Capitol Police closed."
Shame on you Capitol Police! You robbed us of history.

Posted by: Disappointed6 | January 20, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

I am so upset that we did everything possible to follow the rules to get into the Inauguration on time. We arrived at 7am and still didn't make it into the blue section. No one was in charge, people were cutting in line, and there was no communication, the whole area was out of control. How could anyone let this happen at such an important occasion?

I'm sure the Homeland Security people in charge would say that there was no terrorist attack so everything went well. Well that's BS and it didn;t work for George Bush and it doesn't fly now.

The incompetent people in charge of this should be fired. You should be asamed of yourselves for letting this happen as such an important and historic event.

I have never been so disappointed in my life.

Northern Virginia

Posted by: ootsark | January 20, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

I am so upset that we did everything possible to follow the rules to get into the Inauguration on time. We arrived at 7am and still didn't make it into the blue section. No one was in charge, people were cutting in line, and there was no communication, the whole area was out of control. How could anyone let this happen at such an important occasion?

I'm sure the Homeland Security people in charge would say that there was no terrorist attack so everything went well. Well that's BS and it didn't work for George Bush and it doesn't fly now.

The incompetent people in charge of this should be fired. You should be ashamed of yourselves for letting this happen as such an important and historic event.

I have never been so disappointed in my life.

Northern Virginia

Posted by: ootsark | January 20, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Around 7am this morning we showed up with our BLUE tickets in hand thinking we were about to witness the most historical moment of our lives. After standing in the freezing cold with NO POLICE IN SIGHT TO CONTROL CROWDS, we gave up at 11:30am and headed to capitol hill in hopes of watching the oath. We were given false hope of entering through the orange gate and when one cop said no to blue all of the cops turned hostile towards the less than 100 blue ticket holders. It is a disgrace that due to faulty planning and generator outages for security tens of thousands of people were thoroughly disappointed. I am outraged at the lies saying that all ticket holders got in. Own up and apologize. I hope I can see Obama again in 2013 take the oath.

Posted by: rachfriedmann | January 20, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I felt so lucky to have a gotten a purple ticket from Representative Pelosi's office. We had hoped against hope that we would get to spend inauguration day within view of this historic inauguration and our 10-year-old son's performance with the San Francisco Boys Chorus in the swearing-in ceremony.
We rose at 3 am and were in line by 4:30 am at the designated intersection for purple ticket holders. An orderly line quickly became a mob, with no police, inauguration officials, crowd control, or information of any kind. To make a long story short, the purple gate was either never opened or opened only briefly. There was no information as to why the gate wasn't opened. There was no Jumbotron to watch on, we couldn't see or hear anything but the frustrated crowd around us, we couldn't move at all. The crowd was so thick some people fainted. Having moved only 1/2 block in 5 hours, we first missed our son's choir performance and then missed the entire inauguration. Our hearts are broken. We don't want to tell our son we actually missed the performance of a lifetime. If only we'd never been given those purple tickets, we would have happily joined the throngs on the mall who actually got to take part in "the people's inauguration."

Posted by: cgirardeau | January 20, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

It's probably not even worth adding to the masses of ticket-holders that were turned away, but I was on the 4am metro into the city and after wandering around a bit, in line by 5:30, as a purple ticketholder there was absolutely no direction. We ultimately were stuck for hours on 7th between D and E an area that became increasing crowded and frustrated as the hours passed and no information was provided. We finally struggled out of the area on our own accord to attempt to find another entrance at 9. Needless to say the area by D and constitution was a joke. We would have been better off without tickets which is a really unfortunate lesson to have learned. This has to be one of the most disappointing days of my life. It was a complete failure of management and there is no one to blame but those coordinating the day. The crowds exhibited patience beyond belief and instead of getting angry eventually just left dejected.

Posted by: lmh8 | January 20, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

I guess mine is a success story. We arrived around 7:30 and made our way toward the gate. We saw a line snaking around the block, but having seen how things went elsewhere over the weekend, we decided to walk around to the front of the line to check it out. I saw a small crowd gathered at the gate and knew that the crowd would only grow in size and encompass the beginning of the line...so we joined the crowd. I felt bad because some people had been there since 4 a.m. and were behind the barricades. All of a sudden, a rush of people came to the gate from our left, and the people behind the barricades broke through to join us before the rush got there. At that point, it was utter chaos, with people coming from all directions and no one to guide them. I was fortunate enough to be close enough to the front to see the bottleneck (i.e., small gate entry) and navigate my way toward the gate. When we finally made it through around 9:30, I looked back and knew that all of those people weren't going to make it. They really should have had twice as many people working the gate. Once we got through the gate, there were several security lines, and that did not take long at all.

Posted by: ejrobmar | January 20, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

My mother-in-law and I got in line at 6:30 a.m. with our treasured purple tickets. My husband, who insisted on giving us the "better" tickets, had silver tickets with three other friends. They got in line around 7:00 and were in by 8:30. We never made it in and were caught in the "purple tunnel" and then in the chaos above ground. While the other posts mention all that we experienced and more, one detail that was shared with me included the fact that many people broke down blocades and flooded the purple area, which, around 10:00, was relatively empty (probably b/c we were all in line!). One of the most exciting and joyous occassions in my life was greatly marred by the lack of organization and communication. Ticket holders did their parts by supporting in numerous ways; unfortunately, law enforcement and inauguration planners did not.

Posted by: silvettebullard | January 21, 2009 12:21 AM | Report abuse

My story is virtually the same as everyone else’s. I flew in from Guam and had tickets. Woke up at 3:00 am with nervous excitement waited and left at 5:30 to pack into the metro. The metro did not have any attendants at the metro car doors to ensure safety one woman in front of me was pressed along the map on the wall and looked like she was about to pass out. Then we arrive to the gate line. There could have easily have been some 50x100 foot vinyl banners hanging from buildings with directions to guide people. Or better yet, a projector that gave updated messaged on blank spaces of buildings. Information would have been useful especially for all of the non-ticketed people or people at the wrong ticket gate who did not find out they were in the wrong massive line. The ambulances and fire trucks squeezing through the crowds made it scarier because I did not know what was going on. It was a situation were I kept wondering what would be my escape plan in case of a stampede. I was able to see the fence that was before the gate. When I saw the motorcade drive past, my heart sunk as I began to realize that they were not going to open the gate. My friend and I returned to the metro to go home.

Posted by: tracyaa | January 21, 2009 1:59 AM | Report abuse

My 11 year old son and I were caught in Purple Hell today. We arrived at the the designated First Street entrance at 8 am. We could see the "Purple Gate" sign about two blocks ahead. We inched along for about half an hour as thousands poured in behind us. It seemed as though the line slowed as the space filled. A little short of the first intersection ALL MOVEMENT STOPPED. The crowd kept pouring in behind us. Three times during the next hour the crowd was dangerously squeezed as private ambulances with sirens blaring came through the middle of this huge, packed stationary crowd. One even started backing up, almost causing injury and panic.
No one EVER made an announcement about the gate being closed or why the emts were using this jammed, entry designated street as an apparent emergency route. You couldn't leave because the street had barricades on either side; we couldn't retrace our steps because about 6000 people were now behind us, pressuring the crowd forward; and we couldn't tell WHY no one was moving forward. A little after 11 we moved fast--really fast-- forward for at least half a block. Then we were jammed again. As we inched forward I finally saw a policeman, the first all morning. I asked him if there was still going to be space for all of us in the Purple section. He didn't know for sure, but he thought there might be.
At 11:30 you could see that some people were making it in, but painfully slowly. Many in the crowd were leaving, heading generally towards Union Station. The policeman in front of the gate had a bullhorn & announced the gate was for "purple ticketholders only" and looked like he was going to faint when the 2500 people within hearing range all held up their purple tickets. The trickle continued until 11:50 when the gate was locked for good.
It was a debacle that flirted dangerously with disaster. No communication, no directions; downright crazy ambulance drivers and easily 5000 heartbroken ticketholders, including one very patient 11 year old boy who ended up listening to the speech on a cell phone speaker relaying a home broadcast.

Posted by: kcb09 | January 21, 2009 2:05 AM | Report abuse

My family was among the thousands of people with tickets who were not permitted to enter at our designated Blue Gate to the captiol grounds. We travelled to DC on Sunday from Syracuse, NY, with our two daughters, ages 6 and 8, after having procured tickets from our local Congressman, and from Senators from my husband's home State of Mississippi. My mother -in-law (age 69) also travelled from Starkville, MS to be part of this amazing moment on history. We studied road closures, metro stories (that transfer would be difficult and that metro wouldnot stop in crowded stations) and plotted our route by cab to the 3rd street tunnel. We arrived there at 7 am, and walked through the tunnel (which was pedestrian only yesterday)and were in "line" by 8:05 -- only to wait 3 hours and 45 minutes to be literally shut out at the gate. There was NO information or organization on the part of the US Capitol Police, Secret Service, TSA or the DC Metro Police on what was happening or on safety during the 3 hours and 45 minutes we watied in the masses at the Blue Gate. There were some reports that the metal detectors broke down and that they brought in back-up generators to support the detectors. When we were turned away at 11:45, there was no explanation, and the crowd became angry, shouting 'LET US IN" -- at that point my family was able to make our way to the Orange Gate (nearby) where the TSA had told us we would be screened and admitted. We were also shut out of the orange gate (which line had no problems moving all day). Frankly we feel lukcy taht as the crowd mind set took over and it began surging in all directions that we are all safe and were not injured. My 8 year old was in hysterics,and is truly heart-broken (as am I) that despite being in line for 3 hours and 45 minutes, we were denied access to the Capitol Grounds even though we were TICKET HOLDERS who had been fortunate enough (and worked hard enough!) to obtain tickets from our several Congressional and Senatorial home state delegations. The JCCIC knew EXACTLY how many ticket holders had to clear security, and failed to prepare adequately to accomodate ticket holders who arrived with PLENTY of time to spare (3.75 hours!) at the appropriate entrance gate. I have also heard reports that Purple Gate ticket holders were denied access. This is a travesty, and one for which I will be seeking an accountability examination from the Capitol Police, Secret Service, TSA, and the Joint Congressional Committee on the Inauguration Ceremony.

Really words cannot do justice to how heartbroken we were, after being so inspired by President Obama, not to be able to be "there" when he took the oath of office. My 8 year old tears said it all.

Posted by: lydiaturnipseed | January 21, 2009 5:34 AM | Report abuse

We were blue ticket holders. We are locals so know the lay of the land and thought we'd be savvy to the process... Wrong! We were directed to go to 1st Street at Washington Avenue, where we waited in line with thousands of people. We met some nice folks who had come from far away -- people from California, Michigan, upstate NY. We met a lovely couple from St. Louis who had marched in the civil rights movement and came to see the realization of a dream. They had tickets to the swearing in, but nothing else (no balls or parade) and had flown in to philly and then got a car and drove down to DC. Their congressional office told them if they had tickets they would get in. Well they waited with us from 7:30 until 11:30 on Washingon Avenue only to find out that we had been told to wait in a line that went nowhere. We ended at a jersey barrier at the cross of 2nd and C SW. So we worked our way around to the real line on 2nd Street and then they closed the gate. At least the people who camped out on the mall got a jumbotron and speakers. Blue ticket holders simply got hosed by the capitol police officers. Very disappointing.

Posted by: mitchellewS | January 21, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

mitchellewS and lydiaturnipseed: Your experiences mirror my wife's and mine. EVERYTHING went smoothly until we approached the blue gates, tickets in hand. We made it to within 10 feet of the gate when they closed it without explanation. How sad. I would love to see some accountability. If we were dealing with a corporation, there'd be a class-action suit for sure. We missed out on a once-in-a-liftime event because people who are paid to prepare didn't.

Posted by: msmccormick3 | January 21, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Echoing what so many have said re the purple ticket line situation. I was actually part of a crowd of people that were told to leave an already crawling parade route entrance point at 830am because lack of signage or direction meant hundreds of people waited over an hour at that spot thinking it was an entrance to the mall, entrance to a colored ticket area or entrance for the Newseum. As we tried to leave, we were directed up a street that landed us smack in the midst of the purple line gridlock with no way to exit the area. Rumours came through that the purple gate would open at 9am and once that crowd moved we could get out. So we waited. 915am, still nothing and people beginning to get annoyed that streets beyond where we were being held were empty but we still couldn't get out. Security personnel were seen on the tops of the Hyatt and on some scaffolding looking and pointing but still nothing was done. It was only thanks to 1 man getting up on the base of a lamp post, spotting an opening on the other side of the street and organizing a couple of large guys to start a single file line for us all to cut across the crowd to the exit. It was still not without some dangerous crushing and repeatedly letting purple ticket holders know that none of us had tickets and were trying to get out and give them more room. On a day when people weren't in as good a mood and trying hard to maintain calm and patience, the situation could quickly have become ugly and disastrous. Even at 915am, people were questioning how anyone thought all those people were going to get through security in 3hrs. Simple math, people. The answer to that question from several people was, "that's the government for you". Not sure if that was the responsibility of DC Police, Secret Service, Pres. Inaug committee, or what, but somebody failed big time. They really need to take a hard look at their lack of planning, lack of communications and inability to handle what EVERYONE knew was going to be huge. By contrast, once I found my way down to the south side of the mall thanks to 395 being pedestrian only (smartest move the city made!) there were tons of PIC volunteers and military personnel who were well informed and were able to keep people moving with clear directions on where to go to access the mall. Whoever was responsible for that side of town needs to have a good long talk with those responsible for the north side!

Posted by: baddabing1 | January 21, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I have tears in my eyes as I read the posts. Like most of you, my daughter and I arrived early (5:30) at 7th and D streets and were less than one block from the security checkpoint. We waited for 4 hours with patient crowds for gates that were sporadically opened to allow 1-2 people through. We watched police officers standing inside vacant buildings on the upper floors, drinking coffee and taking pictures of the weary and frustrated crowds. They even watched as a medical emergency unfolded and a wonderful AP photographer directed nurses through the crowds to help. The police did nothing!! When we finally decided to leave and try to get home to view the ceremony on television, we arrived at the Gallery Place metro stop to find out that trains were halted due to a pedestrian accident. Our disappointing journey finally ended when we arrived home, after the ceremony was over, to find out that friends made it in at other gates without difficulty. Words cannot express the depth of my disappointment at having missed such an historic moment.

Posted by: momoftwo3 | January 21, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

We had 4 blue tickets and 2 silver, I thought I got the short end of the stick by getting the silver tickets....we ended up having no problem getting in and there was plenty of room, we even got a great view of the inauguration, leaving was a pain and had to walk to nats park to get on the metro, but we had little to complain about, the people with the blue tickets never even got close to getting in and had to watch the inauguration on a mini-tv.

Posted by: John134 | January 21, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I think they really owe us a big apology, and so far they seem to give us only excuses.

First of all, I can't believe they're talking about "bulky winter clothing." Did they not realize that this was going to be in January? Take a look at the satellite picture--you can see the purple ticket holders at the corner of Constitution and Louisiana. You can also see the purple section, directly east of the Peace Monument. You can tell from space that there was plenty of room for more people.

Secondly, I understand that they were overwhelmed by what was going on...sort of. You see, that's why there were 40,000 security personnel. How could they possibly not have enough, when there were 25,000 police officers in the capital yesterday? To make things worse, they do inaugurations with tickets every four years, and the number of tickets this year was the same as any other, so why didn't they have it figured out?

I really don't understand what idiot decided that people should be sent off into a tunnel. Even being down there seems like a health risk, and being stuck there with motorcades driving by seems ridiculously unsafe. I was lucky enough to be stuck between D and E on 1st Ave NW. While that was safely outdoors, we had our own dangerous situation when they sent three ambulances and a police car through the crowd. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

A final point: if there was ANY chance whatsoever that we were going to miss getting in, they should have set up a loudspeaker and, if possible, a JumboTron, so that we could hear it. I listened to the event I was supposed to attend over my cell phone. I had to call my sister several times just to get the call to go through.

I would like to see firings or official reprimands for this. Many people came from distant parts of the country to see this, and most of them probably wouldn't have come if not for having a ticket. I happen to live in Washington, but even so, I was robbed of the opportunity to sit further down on the Mall with my friends and at least see and hear it. We deserved better. Better service, better communication, better respect. No excuse will make up for the fact that we missed the Inauguration. We want real answers and real discipline.

Posted by: philb1 | January 21, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I was a purple ticket holder.
I had waited in line 2 hours the day before to even GET these tickets from our Congressman. Then like so many others we were left in the Purple Tunnel of Disappointment. These tickets were PRIME tickets and took alot a time and hassle to obtain. What a disgrace that we could not use them. Horrible Planning.

Posted by: MM55 | January 21, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Sen Feinstein was Chair of Joint Congressional Commitee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Let her know how you feel.

They could have ordered the gates open at 7 a.m to avoid the long lines. Even if eveything went perfect you could not get eveyone in with new security in 2 hours. What were they thinking?

Senator Dianne Feinstein
Phone: (202) 224-3841

Posted by: gjspa2 | January 21, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I sadly read all the comments about the confusion with the ticket holders. I had a friend that was denied entry. I was a Presidential Inauguration Committee volunteer and was assigned to one of the local hotels to assist visitors and guests. It is a shame that PIC volunteers were not used to help the ticketholders at the reserved area. We were given lots of instructions about helping the people going to the mall area and the parade. To miss an opportunity like this is a big disappointment and one that cannot be recaptured. There should be a "lessons learned" session held for those involved in the planning of a event this large. I found that it helps to have volunteers that are knowledgeable about the city (DC). As residents, we take a lot for granted as far as knowing how to navigate our city. My heart goes out to the people who traveled long distances to be a part of this historic occassion only to be disappointed in the end.

Posted by: shirleysnead | January 21, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

The Chief of the Capital Police clearly is not speaking in facts. I had silver tickets and it was a mess. First, we were directed by police to the purple side, and then finally, someone (a citizen) told us we needed to walk to the other side of the Capital building. Along the way, we stopped and asked the police, and they pointed us in all different directions, some telling us to return to the other (purple side). Then, after a long walk we were confronted by a mob trying to access the blue gate. The police told us to reach the silver gate, we had to wade through the mob, to reach the silver gate. The silver gate was then another mob scene and no one seemed available to direct traffic. The citizens, not the police, who seemed noticeable absent, were guiding each other and it was dangerous because non-ticket holders were able to go past the gate (they were not checking tickets until security) leaving thousands of unticketed people as an obstacle between ticketed folk and security. I managed to lose my friend after people pushed me over and a nice man (thank you private citizen, once again) literally lifted my 150 pound self up in the air so I would not be trampled. (If you are this nice man, thank you truly for your act of kindness). There was no one on loud speakers, no public announcements and no barriers to create a rat maze to help us get places safely and not in a mob. People were literally simply climbing over barriers to get where they wanted and pushing people all around. Finally, I did get in, when they simply let an entire group of us (sans security or ticket check) into the area. And there was plenty, plenty of room, probably because the majority of people were still outside. There HAD to be more than 4,000 people denied entrance. I am quite certain more people than that were behind me in the single silver line and they close security soon after I managed to get through. The ceremony was worth it, but it was certainly flubbed by the Capital Police. Even afterwards, we were directed from station to station until finally we got to Union Station. The police man on the loud speaker was telling everyone the metro was closed and told them to go to Capital South. We ignored him, went downstairs and found the Metro running! It was immensely frustrating to be told so much mis-information.
I was very pleased to get to the Inauguration and grateful for the opportunity, but for all those who traveled and worked hard to get the tickets, this was to be an opportunity of a lifetime, not a chance to be crushed and bruised by the mob.

Posted by: mischegoss | January 21, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

We got in line at 6 am, waited two hours, until Capitol police came to the line and announced that they were dissolving it. That generated a stampede to the south silver entry security gate. With no crowd control, the staff got bogged down as they had to also separate non-ticket holders from the group--and the area was so mobbed that they could not remove the non-ticket holders from the area.

We got close enough to observe that the checkpoint only had 8 tables where personnel took about 5 minutes per person checking personal items. With two stations for silver area, that meant that they could only clear a maximum of 400 people an hour (but they couldn't meet that, since not all tables were open).

Later, we were lucky enough to manage (after another two hour wait) to find an operable checkpoint and enter the parade zone. Once inside, we were surprised it was pretty much vacant.

I just have to ask if anyone even evaluate security intake capacity when they issued tickets? Why did we pass so many security check points that had no signs of ever being opened?

The planning, the lack of line control was insanely negligent. Breaking an orderly line down into riot conditions demonstrated utter lack of judgement.

With proper planning, they could have established cordon lines and put more security stations in place.

Blame goes to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and the Capitol Police who were responsible for this. I just hope that enough people write to their legislators so they initiate corrective action on this.

I would like to see them personally apologize to all the people who I found sobbing on the streets because they were prevented from using their tickets. They should also apologize to all the kids that froze all day to march down empty streets.

Many people sacrificed deeply to elect this president and went to great lengths of effort and travel to witness this event, only to have it callously spoiled by inept efforts at security.

JCCIC and the Capitol Police should know that while they protected a president, they also managed to disappoint multitudes of his deepest supporters.

Posted by: ViennaBelle | January 21, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Washington Post! Check the satellite picture at 11:19 you have provided on your web page. Look at the intersections where all of us are telling you we were stranded. Get someone to estimate the crowd stranded outside the Purple and Blue gates. THEN - update your insulting 4,000 number above to better reflect those who travel so far and neither saw nor heard the day. (Don't forget to add the souls in the Tunnel, who don't show up on the satellite photo).

Posted by: jb22079 | January 21, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

There should be an oath do-over, and only those ticketholders denied entry will be invited. and beyonce.

Posted by: bloodorange | January 21, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I feel so lucky to have managed to get in with a Purple ticket! I can't explain how -- we showed up at the Purple gate about 9:45 am -- what was clear was that no provision whatsoever was taken to organize people outside the barrier -- no line, no nothing. Just a crush that me and by 9 year old and 15 year old merged into. Really shoddy and totally unnecessary. So don't let them get away with "unavoidable." No thought at all for how to organize people outside the barrier -- what they needed was a real Community Organizer!

Posted by: RobinKirk | January 21, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm a DC resident and former Congressional staffer. My sister, a Maryland resident, is 11 yeard old and Barack H. Obama's (self proclaimed) #1 fan.

My father currently works for a Democratic Congressman and gave me his coveted blue tickets on the condition that I take my sister. Thanks to another connection we'd gotten tickets to the Rock the Vote concert the night before. My sister'd never been to a show and she had a fantastic time. Rock the Vote even handed out free Obama t-shirts on Monday night after the show.

After that, all we could talk about was our excitement for the ceremony.

On Tuesday morning we walked from my downtown apartment to find that McPherson Square had been turned into an "exit only" station (allegedly, this was to be one of the metro stations that was to remain open, but...), so we ran to Chinatown (closed) and finally caught the train at Judiciary Square. We got to Federal Center SW around 9'ish and got in line.

It's funny, but at that point I saw a big mesh of people by the blue gate. The thought crossed my mind to bumrush the mesh but thought it would be best to join the line.

By 11, the line had reached the mesh and at that point we realized there had been no line at all.

With a mass of people around us, we braved this crowd in hopes of making the gates. Just as we passed under the blue gate, 11:30 came around and things started. At 11:50, they closed the gates.

Upset, I grabbed my sister's hand and said "let's go". We pushed our way back out of the crowd and ran to the Capitol Hilton.

On the way out there, we saw the Orange gates. They were open, completely empty and several officers were standing about looking bored. It struck me as odd that they didn't shift resources or open the orange section to the blue people.

Fortunately, the Capitol Hilton was nice enough to allow strays to watch the Obama speech on their lobby tv.

I was extremely upset at myself that I'd not gotten there at 7 or earlier, as watching Obama speak was one of my sister's life goals. I'd promised her she'd see Obama that day and failed to live up to the promise. My sister made the best of the situation, but I could tell she was deeply disappointed.

To hear that those who'd showed up at 6:30 also got denied tells me that the problem of locked gates would have kept me out no matter what time I would have showed up.

I showed up for the Blue line around 9 am. There was a mass of people by the gate, but also a line. Rather than head for the mass of people, I got in line.

Posted by: nwrepresent1 | January 21, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

The story is basically the same as every one else - but it was a horrifying experience. What disgusts me the most about this is it was all avoidable. The "security" person near us (at the corner of 1st and D) LEFT the area at 8:30 and we didn't get any additional information. The cops who finally came into the vicinity after 11am would not talk to us except to tell us to get out of the way of the ambulances they decided to drive into the crowds for no apparent reason, which only crushed the crowds even further and created more chaos.

My heart goes out to those we met in line that had volunteered for several years on the campaign. (We got in line at 7:30am so we had a while to chat with people about their stories).

Unbelievably disappointing on what should have been an amazing day!

Posted by: robbikearns | January 21, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Though I feel bad for those people who did not get through the gates and missed the ceremony. I do disagree with the people who said it was a failure. I believe it was a complete sucess because our President and former President and their families were kept safe. It sounds like that there was complete disorganization at some areas but it is hard for these organizations to plan for this. The numbers of people there were unprecidented. There is no amount of test runs that can prepare anyone for that. There were probably over 3 million people there and from what I heard no one got arrested. With all those angry people that is a sucess.

Posted by: hcw8161 | January 21, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Another blue ticket holder here. I just saw a story on the 5:00 news saying "..approximately 4000 people who were ticket holders did not get in"... to yesterday's inauguration. I have to believe that number is grossly underestimated.

A friend who works for Representative Farr of California generously gave me two coveted blue tickets to the swearing in ceremony as a birthday gift. My fiancee and I were so excited and appreciative - we were going to see the President sworn in in person!! Yesterday morning we got up early, put on all of our layers and joined the "line" for the blue gates at 8:45 AM. We shivered, we laughed, we chatted with those around us, and we waited. And waited. And waited. We moved or shuffled a few feet at a time now and then but we believed we would be granted access to this most historic and hopeful day. We were never given any direction from Police or officials, except to be yelled at to get out of the way when, impossibly, at one point an official CAR was being driven - albeit slowly - through our section of the crowd! No one ever told us why we weren't moving or that there was no way we were getting in. A rumor spread through the crowd that there was a power failure and the metal detectors at the gate weren't working, but no announcement was made. No one came to help inform or redirect all of those hopeful people, us included, who wanted so badly to be a part of the energy, a part of this most incredible moment. Disappointed and freezing, we finally gave up at 11:20 and made it to Cannon House in time to see Vice President Biden and President Obama take the oath of office on TV.

I don't know who was responsible for the debacle that occurred yesterday morning. I wish I did. All I know is that I feel cheated and sorely disappointed at the way the situation was handled. Big picture, the most important thing was that President Obama was sworn in yesterday and that change can begin. I'm keeping that in perspective. But that doesn't forgive or excuse those who disappointed so many of us who wanted to be a bigger part of the event and had every right, every invitation actually, to do so. Those who were in charge had better consider themselves incredibly lucky that the crowd who had gathered were so hopeful and full of joy and love that things never got ugly or out of hand. Any other day, any other event, it could easily have gone another way and the news stations today would be filled with reports of injuries and riots instead of gross underestimations of so many heartbroken souls.

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

Terrance Gainer says there were 236,000 people who were very happy with the service? I can guarantee him that 50,000 people in the blue section were NOT. My husband and I were not among the 5,000 denied admission, but we waited from 6:30 until 11 a.m. to get through security. For about 1 1/2 hours, it was a calm, self-policed line, and then there was a mad rush from behind us to the security gates at 8 a.m., and we were in the middle of a mob scene for the next 3 hours -- no bathroom, no food, no air to breathe. We were treated like cattle. No organizers, police, no one to try to control the crowd or provide any information. The only police we saw were ones who came through and told the crowds to move to let some VIP or police car through. Cattle.

I am so sad for people who came a long distance and did not get in. I am so glad I did not bring my children.

Bulky coats causing the crowd problem? HAH. Thank goodness I had mine, waiting in the cold all that time. How stupid do they think we are? The problem was the security lines -- no crowd control, inefficient security lines. Maybe they should have opened earlier. Calm people waiting on the capitol grounds with toilets accessible would be far better than a mob of upset cattle -- er, people.

Posted by: Susan_in_VA | January 21, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Normally, I would never write a comment about something that was an absolute fiasco but my disappointment is so severe that I must. As proud blue ticket holders my husband and I did everything exactly as we should, arrived on the Metro early, followed the signs and waited patiently. It horrifies me that the numbers of people who did not get in are stated to be 4000. We were in a throng of 20 persons wide and blocks long and our estimate is that we were 2 of at least 7000. Our group, which has been very accurately described as the group going nowhere, sadly watched as the orange ticket people (who in my opinion had the same winter clothing on that we all did) filed through until the line was gone at least 1.5 hours before the ceremony. Then, we were all parted like the sea when a black Pathfinder drove down the middle of us for who knows what reason. All of this aside, the saddest part was that no one communicated with us.We never saw any authority figures at all. My husband and I were separated as the throng had to circle around a parked police car and he finally just went home with the camera. I could hear the cheering of the crowds on the Mall and couldn't believe that I wasn't watching from the Blue South...or anywhere. I did make it to the Mall to see the last of the speech but was so sad that it was difficult to see through my tears. My only thought was that many more who had been standing around us were far worse off than I. They spent a good deal of money to get to DC, had no idea where to go to see anything, and no photos at all to take home. I am proud to be from DC but was embarrassed that our visitors were treated this way. And, this is just my story of a portion of the Blue ticket section. I suppose what bothers me the most is that security knew exactly how many blue tickets had been issued. I had my map with me and we all felt that the blue section actually looked smaller than the orange...so how did they all get in and early?? The excuses are inexcusable to me. I raised my children to accept responsibility for their mistakes and I have always guided employees to own up to their errors as it is the only way to diffuse a wrong. I haven't even been able to watch the DVR of the inauguration yet as the shots of the empty area where we would be is still too raw. It's not like the game will be played again or I can go to another city to see the concert...this was a one time deal. I will feel closure as soon as I read that the powers that were in charge own up to the problems and don't make us feel like we were the ones who did something wrong. Let's just hear them say out loud in a press conference that ticket holders (who are numbers that were known well in advance) received treatment that was embarrassing, unorganized, and left out in the cold alone. NO EXCUSES!!!

Posted by: cathud | January 21, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I also followed the instructions given on our fated tickets. As proud holders of purple tickets compliments of our congressman, we arrived at 1st and D St about 7:30 am and didn't move an inch for more than 3 hours(other than to squeeze to the right to make room for numerous ambulances). Occasionally someone would climb a tree or a child would be boosted to her father's shoulders to report what was transpiring at the purple checkpoint. It seemed as though the security gates opened very briefy from 9:00 to 9:15 and then closed, never to open again (at least while we were there). As reported by others at this site, there were no officials, no communications, no port-a-potties, no nothing. We were reduced to phoning and texting friends not in DC to find out what was going on. Officials are in severe denial if they think 1000-5000 ticket holders were denied access. There must have been 4000 people alone between Louisiana and F St on the 1st St corridor alone. There were also thousands on the cross streets because we could hear their chants. Add to that those trapped in the Purple Tunnel of Doom, and there must have been 10,000-12,000 denied access just from the purple ticket holders. Add those denied access at the blue and silver gates, and I calculate that 15,000-20,000 who missed the opportunity of a lifetime.

I would really like to know exacty what the screw-up was with the purple screening gates. It seemed as though no one was manning them. It is infuriating to hear officials blame the ticket holders. We followed the instructions: we went to the correct metro station (Metro, by the way, was completely prepared. Cars were crowded, but we got where we needed to be safely and on time), we followed the map provided with the tickets, and we waited patiently, very patiently, for the gates to open so we could enter our designated space. And give me a break - it's because we were wearing heavy winter coats? We'd been hearing for weeks to dress warmly because the average January temperature in DC is in the 30's.

Had there been better - in fact ANY communication - some of us might have been able to leave 1st and D to go to the mall further down - say between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. As it was, my husband and I left 1st and D shortly before 11:00 and went back to our hotel in Bethesda where we watched the inauguration in a hotel lobby.

I would like to see a full investigation of this fiasco and much better estimates of the number of ticket holders who were either turned away or split early like we did in order not to miss the TV version of the inauguration.

Who's responsible for this mess? Let's hope 4 years from now that we have learned something. And to repeat a previous suggestion, just ask Micky Mouse how to do it.

Posted by: microquilter | January 21, 2009 8:49 PM | Report abuse

I waited for 7 hours (5 am to almost noon) with purple ticket in hand and denied entry. I was on the corner of 1st and D. I cannot even begin to describe my disappointment.

Posted by: cyclone1 | January 21, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

I was also stuck in the crowd, with purple tickets, waiting to get in.We followed the crowd, and waited in what was a pleasant and manageable crowd at 7:30 am, at the corner of First & C St (I think it was C, it's hard to know, I just followed the crowd there, doing as the barracades demanded).

We waited for about an hour, with crowds building up behind us. There was ZERO police presence, no one in charge, and a growing number of people in a small space. Over time, I started to feel less & less safe, and was genuinely concerned about the welfare of older people and young children. When I couldn't take the pushing of the crowd anymore, we pushed our way out of the mob, and emerged to find our way into a line that actually moved. Before doing so, I stopped to tell a group of police officers who we standing together drinking coffee that I thought they might have a crowd control problem a block away. One officer told me there was nothing they could do. I was speechless.

In this security-mad city, I cannot believe the negligence of the DC & Capitol police. They should know how to deal with this kind of event. There was no information, no one in charge, and it is a miracle no one was trampled amidst the chaos.

This kind of mismanagement is not acceptable and an investigation is called for. It had NOTHING do with " people in bulky winter coats." What a farce. More like a total lack of preparation on the part of the city & the police. I agree with other comments--the Metro was fine, even quite good. What happened around the Purple Gates is simply inexcusable!

Posted by: aolins | January 21, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

I was also in the purple ticket line for 4 hours with thousands of other purple ticket holders. We moved less than a block in that time as the crowd swelled. There was no sign of anyone in a position of authority, no direction, and no information available. When we finally found several DC police officers we were told that they knew nothing and could do nothing to help us. This makes the comments by their police chief (falsely claiming that all ticket holders gained entry) all the more appalling. There was no way to experience any of the event with no speakers and no television screens. I can guarantee you that in the small area that I saw and occupied for 4 freezing cold hours, there were THOUSANDS of ticket holders who did not get in.

Posted by: lmhberg | January 21, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse

My family and I travelled to DC for the inauguration from Massachusetts. We really just wanted to be within earshot with others who were marking the moment. My 15 year old daughter wanted to feel "at one" with her country like she thought people felt when she watched President Obama on election night in Grant Park. We made our way to the blue gate... and our story and experience has been written about by others before in this column. At times we were scared, when crowd members began to shout "Let us in", it felt like the crowd could transform into a stampede. The fact that it didn't is a tribute to all of us locked out. In the meantime, we drove down and it took 8 hours. My heart goes out to Regina who drove 18 hours from Louisiana, Annie who came from North Carolina, the couple I met from Florida and the anxious grandmother with her grandson from Washington, DC. And I think we're all grateful to the people who brought transistor radios that served as our "speaker system" to the swearing in and President Obama's speech. My hope is that President Obama has another inauguration in 4 years. Three suggestions for the next one: 1: POST SPEAKERS AT ALL THE GATES incase people cannot get in so at least they can HEAR the swearing in. THIS would have made a big difference to all of us. 2: make sure you're in communication, and giving us information in a timely way. If they had told us at 10am -- or even at 11 am that there was a good chance we wouldn't get in, many of us would probably have moved to within earshot on the mall. And three: LET THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN ORGANIZE THE NEXT INAUGURATION. They obviously have more experience and skill in managing big historic crowds.

Posted by: MassamachusettsWoman | January 21, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

This is terrible. I had a bleachers seat to the parade, and after hours of bad information and bad directions from policemen and PIC volunteers, I only got in to claim a seat through a combination of persistence, luck, and a very *very* kind police officer whose force I couldn't tell you, much less his name, but he took pity on me when he saw me begin to well up in tears that I couldn't stop, and let me through a closed gate.

I knew I was lucky but I didn't know how lucky---it's unbelievable that such large numbers of ticketholders were turned away. I hate it so much for all of you, especially those who traveled from far away. And I hate it for the city of DC, where I no longer live but which I love and miss very much. The city has broken the hearts of thousands of people all across the country and that's what they'll always remember about the District: nothing but crushing disappointment. The worst thing is there is no way it can be made up to them. This is a sadness that will burn bright in people's memories for as long as they live.

I am nobody, with no power, and my thoughts on this matter are nothing, but still, for all of you disappointed ones: I am so sorry.

Posted by: bug451 | January 22, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse


THE PARADE WAS JUST AS BAD AS THE SWEARING-IN WITH TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DISAPPOINTED AMERCIANS. I was in a building between 7th and 9th street overlooking the parade. The Navy Memorial square was supposed to hold 10,000 people according to the Secret Service. The Navy Memorial was almost completely empty. The parade route had a small number of people. It was 3/4 empty. The TV pictures showed empty bleachers up and down Pennsylvania Avenue.

President Obama said that he will hold his government accountable. Senator Feinstein promises to investigate for whatever good that will do.

How about this for a good start? FIRE THE HEAD OF THE SECRET SERVICE FOR WHAT IS PROBABLY THE MOST DISORGANIZED AND DISGRACEFUL INAUGURATION IN AMERICAN HISTORY. We have been told it was the Secret Service who ran the access points and it is that agency that is responsible for this debacle. Tens of thousands of Americans who came to Washington to be inspired by our new President left Washington bitter and disappointed. For them, fire the head of the Secret Service, the Chief of Police for the District, the head of the Metro transit and anyone else at the top of the pyramid who did this to tens of thousands of Americans who traveled across our country only to be disppointed.

You want accountability? Fire the Head of the Secret Service for starters, along with his lieutenants who were responsible for this mess

Posted by: alanm2 | January 22, 2009 5:47 AM | Report abuse

Phil. Portland, Oregon. Purple Ticket. 5:15.
I'm on the train back to NYC to catch a flight home, I had some time to see if anyone was talking about the Purple Ticket Debacle, and I'm so grateful to have found a virtual "family" online who shared my experience. The shared thrill of having a ticket, for whatever random reason; the anticipation causing us to line up hours before the frigid dawn; and finally the purple tide of anguish.
Friends who have seen my emotional aftermath want me to "let it go." But I've been so emotionally invested in this election that getting a ticket to this shared American experience only to have the purple tide rush over me and thousands of others like me, AND crippling my ability to see or hear the inauguration at all, has become hard for me to rationalize.
Over the many, many beverages I consumed following the purple ticket debacle (many thanks to those who generously donated to my emotional aftermath drinking fund), I talked with many others in other lines. I talked with people who couldn't get into Orange because they got there at 10. OK, yes, they shouldn't have given out more tickets than they had room for, but you got there at 10... what did you expect? I talked with Silver ticket holders who got there at 10 and were denied entry... OK, again, get your butt out of bed.
But the Purple Ticket fiasco, and perhaps the Blue, are the saddest of all stories. The student from New Zealand. The three sisters from Miami. The family from Italy. All in line by 6AM, and thousands like them. All had a deep emotional stake in the Obama campaign. All were washed out to sea by the Purple Tide.
For those of us who never let go of the hope, despite all evidence that we would not get in, for all those who would've gladly traded their ill-fated purple tickets for a seat by a radio or tv, let's stay in touch.
Let's stay in touch, my purple family, and let's find ourselves on the national mall when, God willing, we prepare for "4 more years". I'll bring the wine, a big blanket... and a radio.
PhilSCV at yahoo.

Posted by: PhilSCV | January 22, 2009 6:04 AM | Report abuse

As a member of the purple ticket people, the hardest thing is when people ask how did you feel at the moment when President Obama took the oath. As a 50 year old African American woman who beleived I would never live to see a black president, I get asked that question quite a bit. The problem is that I was unable to enjoy the moment. The moment passed and you can never get those moments back. Years from now people will ask you "do you remember when Obama was sworn in" and my memory will be associated with being a part of the purple ticket people. The whole ordeal was physically gruelling. By the time I got to a place to see the swearing in ceremony I was in physical pain and exhausted. I was unable to take in the moment and reflect on it at the time it was happening. It was a unique and invaluable moment that was lost; that can not be made up. While I appreciate Gainer's apology, I wish they understood the human pain they caused at the time and had made a better decision. Maybe if this had been the first time a white man had been elected President they would have been able to understand the enormity of the event and found a resolution to the problem.

Posted by: donna8 | January 22, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Before I start with my story, I just want to preface it by saying that I have never seen such a lack of communication at any event! All signs were placed in places that by the time you got to them, you knew where you were going. The very few that existed were low to the ground and impossible to see if there was any sort of a crowd (which I would expect they should have known would be there). There was not one person that I saw with a megaphone. Absolutely insane that they would expect millions of people to know where they were going with no direction.

My story though, ends happily. We were in the silver line to nowhere. We left our hotel around 6:15 am to walk to the tunnel. There was literally one person the whole time we were making our way from the Hyatt to the Tunnel giving directions and the direction was only for purple ticket holders (ha ha huh purple ticket holders?). When I DIRECTLY asked him where to go with a silver ticket. He looked me right in the face and said again "Purple ticket holders to the left." So, we were left to figure it out by asking our fellow citizens. We finally did get in the right line and stood for an hour and a half or so. There were about a hundred blue ticket holders who'd been told to stand where we were and finally were told that they were in the wrong place. They had to work their way back out of our crowd and I will reiterate what so many others have said - there was not a nicer, more polite group of people to be found. Everyone parted and let them through.

Finally got past the initial ticket check point. A very nice officer said the line ahead was moving pretty fast that we just had to be patted down up ahead. Well that must have been about the time of the silver uprising ahead because we moved literally about 3 feet over the next hour. I haven't read through all of these, but I just want to say from a shorter person's perspective, you literally can only see the people in front and behind you. So, you NEED direction. I was with my step-dad who said that people to our left seemed to be moving, but we couldn't get out from where we were and also didn't want to get out of line if we were in the right one. Finally we could here the people behind us (waiting to go through the first ticket check) being told to head to the left (where the people had been moving freely for the past hour). We decided to try it, went to the left and literally we were in the silver ticketed area within 5 minutes. There were no lines at the security area and there was PLENTY of space in the silver ticketed area (we were behind the first jumbotron). It would have been so easy if they had loud speakers or megaphones to get everyone into the new area for screening quickly. Our area ended up being quite full, but the outside area of the mall wasn't full by any stretch. In our area, I don't think they oversold tickets. There just wasn't a way in.

Posted by: illinoisgirl1 | January 22, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Adding to my previous post, although we got in, the speakers in our area did not work. So, if you were on the shorter side and in the silver section, you could neither see nor hear the event. How did they not have a backup sound system for this event? Whomever did the audio for the event should not be paid.

I will say this as a Chicago resident, Mayor Daley rocked the election night rally. I had no real appreciation for what a fantastic job he did until I saw this sorry excuse for crowd control and crowd communication.

Posted by: illinoisgirl1 | January 22, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I have read every comment since I got to work this morning; it took me two hours to finish (and a coffee break). I could not believe what I was reading. I watched the Inauguration from my home; I was warm, and happy. I applauded the brave people who went out in cold freezing temperatures to view in person. From the tv's point of view, everything look great; for some. This is what I want to say to all of you: Congratulations for keeping your cool, for doing the right things, and for writing in your disappointments. Let me tell you why the police-officers were so incompetent. Because they were waiting for you to act out. You're stuck in tunnels; you're packed up against each other to almost being crushed; you're cold and you're angry; and you still did not act out! This is all police officers know; this is all that they were told to do; "control the crowds, make sure no one acts out", and since that did not happen; there was nothing for them to do! Thanks to all of you. They did not get to shoot off their guns, hit anybody with their bully clubs, or throw anybody in jail. They did their job (nothing) I've been saying for years, that cops are stupid. When you can't respond to someone telling you that someone needs medical attention (which I read in several comments) that proves my claim. I wish they would remember that they are human first, cops seconds; Koodoos to all of you, and I pray that you get your money back for your tickets, and that time will heal your souls. It was the peoples Inauguaration; however the millions of security that was hired for that day (free paychecks) failed you; for that I'm sorry; I cringed with every email that I read. God Bless you all.

Posted by: tricks2 | January 22, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I can't even watch the event on my DVD, I am so heartbroken that I break out in tears when I try. I was within feet of the purple gate, after trying to get there for almost 7 hours, when it was literally closed in my face. I was never in a REAL LINE; it was just a massive sea of people crushed together, all believing we were in a line until we realized we were going nowhere. The mass of people would move to the next spot believed to be the line. No signs, no communication, no police, no cordoned off areas for lines. I finally made it to the purple gate around 11 AM. People ahead of me could see people moving through the gate, albeit slowly, so we stayed, thinking we would get in. Instead they closed the gate and we were locked out. With no way to move we were stuck there, listening to the 21 gun salute on the other side of the precious gate. I just cannot comprehend the complete breakdown of any control or organization.

Organizers should be very THANKFUL that the crowd stayed courteous and that we policed ourselves, because there was NO ONE around to try to restore order if things got out of control. Many of us in the purple section were campaign organizers and trust me when I tell you we could have done a better job, starting with setting up cordoned off LINES.

PITIFUL ... that is what it was.

Posted by: kashabear | January 22, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I was one of the people who couldn't get into blue. There was NO line control, NO security (except the few that were actually at the gate), NO one to tell us anything. There was no one handling anything, telling us anything. I personally never once saw a security officer.

The crowd was staying calm, but without any kind of authority AT ALL, it felt unsafe. It wouldn't have taken much for someone to get hurt if there had been any kind of panic.

The worst part was that then we were stuck in an area where we couldn't hear or see anything. We had no idea when he took the oath,

I can't convey easily how heartbreaking it was to tell my daughter that we were going to miss the whole thing after all we did to get there. I would have given anything just to hear his speech, hold my daughter next to me while we listened, it would have made things right.

When it was coming up to the days of the inauguration, I told my friends and family I was going because all I really wanted to do was hear him take the oath and then listen to the crowd erupt in joy. It was denied to us, simply because of a bad plan. There was no way the plan for our area was ever going to work.

They should have made a road trip to DisneyWorld, to see a demonstration of how to properly setup and control a line.

First, you set up a line physically, so people know where to stand in an orderly fashion. People were trying so hard to do the right thing, but without any direction, there was no way to know what to do.

Then you have more than a few officers processing people through security. That is all it would have taken.

Posted by: ThinkGreen | January 22, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I was a blue ticket holder and got denied after 5 hours of waiting. I am an online journalist, and wrote my account of our nightmare, complete with video of the fiasco. Check it out: http://www.examiner.com/x-2347-Latin-America-Travel-Examiner~y2009m1d22-The-Obama-inauguration-the-blue-ticket-fiasco

Posted by: jeffwheeland | January 23, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The Nation's Capital will celebrate the effective, efficient security measures during the recent Inauguration festivities at the National Bollard Festival.

See http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/celebrate-inaugural-security/

Posted by: MikeLicht | January 25, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

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