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More on Purple Ticket Fiasco

The Armed Forces Inaugural Committee holds a briefing People with purple tickets line the 3rd Street tunnel yesterday. (AP)

The Post Metro team has been aggressively reporting on the major screwup that kept thousands of ticketholders to Obama's swearing-in ceremony stranded outside the security perimeter, after waiting for several hours in line, with absolutely no view of the ceremony. Our reporters are still working the story in overdrive today, so look for more on-line later today at washingtonpost.com and in tomorrow's newspaper.

People who had purple tickets--they made up the vast majority of those who were unable to get into the ceremony--are understandably furious. These ticket-holders include big-time Obama donors and volunteers, as well as movers and shakers from major industries. Last night, Inauguration Watch visited the Western States Ball and we met Gary Love, an investment banker from San Francisco, who had come for the inauguration because he got a Purple ticket for the swearing-in from ... House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

You'd think that if Pelosi picked someone to attend the event, that person would get in. Think again. Love and a female friend, who declined to give her name because she works as a journalist for another publication, were among the purple ticket-holders who waited in line from 6:45 a.m. until 11:45 a.m.

The woman described it this way: After standing in line for four hours, at about 10:15 a.m., the line turned into a "free for all. People ran through security and then came to another line and we had to stand in that line another hour. People were crying and chanting 'Let us in!'"

Love added: "There were officers at the gates, but they did not respond. They turned their backs."

They said the gates were closed for good at 11:45 a.m. and they gave up and it was too late to get a free spot on the Mall. So they missed the entire thing.

Love had flown in from San Francisco specifically to attend the ceremony. What a shame.

Tell us your stories in the comments or send us an email at nakamurad@washpost.com. We would love any newsy tips if you've heard any explanations from, say, your congressional representative or any federal official.

By David A Nakamura  |  January 21, 2009; 2:24 PM ET  | Category:  Post Coverage , Swearing-in Ceremony , Tickets
Previous: Video: Western States Ball | Next: Inaugural Committee Apologizes for Ticket Fiasco




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Comments



I was in the Silver ticket line, and consider myself extremely lucky to have made it in. I waited in a line from 8 am to 11:20, inching slowly forward with occasional huge surges. At the end what had been an orderly line turned into a free-for-all mob, crushed at the (closed) gate. Everyone was upset but people kept it together, despite lots of grumbling about starting a riot.

We saw no cops until the very end, when one started yelling into a megaphone that we would all be getting in soon. Then the barricades were pulled back and we were waved through, with absolutely NO security check or even a ticket check. We ran into the wide open space (there was so much room still available!) and made it just in time for the start of the ceremony.

While I am very glad to have made it in, it is frightening to me how disorganized this was and how many people were let in without any security check.

Posted by: katesela | January 21, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I was amoung the thousands of people with purple tickets who made it within 15 feet of the gate at the purple entrance, only to have the gates closed right in front of us and was not able to see or hear any part of the ceremony. It is one the greatest disappointments of my 54 year long life. I arrived at the RFK stadium at 4:30 AM and yet I never got in. I am heartbroken. I traded in silver tickets for what I naively thought were better tickets. I was on the Mall at 7th Street at 6:30 AM trying to cross from the south side of the Mall to the north side, positioned in front of a jumbotron and I naively walked away thinking that I would have my spot in the Purple section, and so I left there. I am watching the ceremony on DVD today, in tears because I missed the entire thing. Sure I was there, but.....I should have been THERE, in the purple section, WATCHING and LISTENING to the event.

The other heartbreaking part is this: the thousands of people I was stuck with were so shocked and dismayed that we did not get in, we just stood there in stunned silence, hoping upon hope that maybe we could hear someting if we just stayed quite, so there was no celebrating or waving or screaming, or flag waving.

And then, as soon as he was sworn in, people in the purple area started leaving, not even staying to hear Obama's Inauguration speech. When asked why (we could clearly see them walking out) they said they did not want to wait in line for 5 hours to get out. I had been walking and in lines for 7 hours and I would have given almost anything to be where they were, and they were walking out on one of the most historic events of all time. Absurd!!

It was alternatively a day of great hope, pride, celebration, amidst a day of great sorrow and anger. I guess the day ended up being the perfect metaphor of Life.

Posted by: kashabear | January 21, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

The lack of information, mis-information, bad directions from officers, national guard, park service employees and volunteers was abominable! I was redirected from 5th St to 7th St to 9th St, to 12th St and then back east to the tunnel, just to get across the mall from the south side to the north side. This killed 4 hours of my time! Everywhere I went I encountered gates that were closed or national guardsmen telling us that there was "no way" they were letting anyone through the area until Wednesday. Once on the north side, there were mobs of people clogging the streets, with no direction from anyone in a position of authority. There was no one, and no signs telling you where to go. The crush of humanity pushing forwards anytime we got within site of a possible opening to a gate was frightening and potentially life threatening. Ambulances could not get through to attend to people in the crowd who needed medical treatment. We literally had to "pass" medically-needy people through the crowd because ambulances could not get through. Thankfully the crowds were fairly calm, despite eveyone's frustration and desperation. People could have easily been trampled to death. It was awful. All I can say was "I was there". Today I am in tears, watching what I missed yesterday.

Posted by: kashabear | January 21, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I had a silver ticket but never got into the silver ticket area. The line moved a few feet every 15 minutes or so, then stopped entirely at about 10:00 a.m. We didn't know why; the security officers never gave us any information or direction. If they had, we may have been able to find other spots on the Mall. As it was, the Mall area was closed by the time most of us gave up on the silver ticket line, so we watched what we could from the street.

I'm still glad I was there, and I thank God I had tivo'd the swearing-in, otherwise I would have missed it. I also have my (worthless) silver ticket to cherish for a lifetime.

Posted by: Seneca7 | January 21, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I have to say I don't understand all these people who were turned away and claim they were forced to miss the entire Inauguration. I was there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King spoke and had a great view of the Jumbotron and still felt like a part of the festivities. There were thousands of other people on the other end of the Washington Monument who didn't have to deal with any of the security hassle and probably had the same, if not better, view of the proceedings via Jumbotron. Once you're a certain distance back, you're watching it the same way everyone else there and everyone else at home is. I understand it may have been frustrating, but the option was certainly not Purple Section or go home. We had plenty of room on our side, and we were just as thrilled to be there...

Posted by: binky1313 | January 21, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

My 14-year old daughter and I were also unfortunate purple ticket holders. We were excited to have the opportunity to attend the inaugural events. After waiting for about two hours in extremely crowded area with no signage, police presence or information, we gave up and went to a bar to watch the swearing in and speech. We decided to leave after several ambulances drove through an already over-crowded intersection and scared the crowd into almost crushing each other. I am shocked that there was no police guidance in a very dangerous situation. I do hope that we will get some explanation as to why this turned into such a mess. So many of us invested a lot of time and energy getting to this inauguration and had hoped to share in the day. It is criminal that these tickets turned out to be burden instead of a positive.

Posted by: vangilders | January 21, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

This is horrible. I knew better than to try to brave the crowds. But for those who worked so hard for Obama -- and aren't rich investment bankers that get the attention - to be shut out is horrible.

Those with tickets thought it would guarantee them a place, that's the point of tickets. So they waited in line, they were never told they were not getting in, so they didn't have a chance to head to the Mall. One things this is NOT is the fault of those who trusted in the tickets. Don't blame them for not anticipating the crowds (they did), not heading to the Mall (they had tickets and never knew it meant nothing), or whatever reason you want to give. The fault is with those who didn't have enough volunteers, set lines, etc. and those who didn't have tickets yet forced their way in.

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

What they didn't tell the public that there was another way into the city through New York avenue. My family had gone to the Metro stations in the MD area and were met with long lines at 4:30 am. My sister who used the route she takes to work everyday got us in with not hassles and zero traffic.

Once we got to the area there were long lines everywhere, clearly the police and the volunteers were not informed and acted disinterested. We asked some for directions and they did not even know some were helpful and they know who they are. They were not going to hinder me from seeing this inauguration. We were silver ticket holders and were standing in line at the gate we thought was for our group, only to be told it was the wrong one. The gate said for silver ticket holders and they told us to leave. While we waited in line for hours, after walking through the tunnel of hell, they had the audacity to put the women police officers in front to control the crowds. You could not understand anything they were saying because they did not know how to inflect their voices. The people then made their own rules and tore down whatever boundaries they had in place. Once we were allowed in at 1100am, we were checked by TSA. Behind me were some people who said their tickets were not checked nor were their bags because they claim the police took over for TSA. My family and I followed the rules and did not bring anything that was not allowed. My sister was aware of this also by how people had thermos and other items that were supposedly not allowed. To me this showed a general lack of enforcement for the rules and of security. Thank goodness that the feds were there because it appears the local police force out there that day were not.

Posted by: msvon60 | January 21, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I were also Silver ticket holders. We stood in a crowd of other silver ticket holders for well over an hour until we all decided to jump the barriers and go in. We entered to find security lines empty. There was never anyone in charge to give out direction or information. When the ceremony was over and we all started to leave,we could not get out! Once again,there was no one in charge so we knocked down a fence and we all climbed out. I am a New Yorker and I was surprised to see the lack of a police presence or any one to give information. The crowd was wonderful-helping each other and generally in a great mood. Overall the experience was wonderful but we were not impressed by the efforts of the agencies involved.

Posted by: grose1 | January 21, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

katesela, you nailed it. It was a horrible experience, but you are right that we in the Silver area were lucky compared to the horrible total denial experienced by the Purple folks.

It was an utter monstrosity that unticketed people were allowed into the Silver and Purple areas---before the barricade rush.

WHAT HAPPENED!!?? I appreciate the apology from the PIC. But the Secret Service needs to answer for their overzealous decrees that were the source of the problem.

It turned what should have been an unimaginably beautiful, moving and historic day into a scary, upsetting, and at times dangerous nightmare.

Posted by: DouginMountVernon | January 21, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

BLUE TICKET HOLDERS, DON'T FORGET THE BLUE TICKET HOLDERS.

I can't believe your assertion that the "vast majority" of those denied entrance were purple ticket holders. There were literally thousands of people behind me and I bailed at about 11:20 for a jumbotron. Not only were the Capitol Police unhelpful, they were counter-productive. The line was barely holding together, when one of them came up to allow a squad car to proceed through the MIDDLE of the line, turning the line into a mob.

As a local Washingtonian, I was able to go to plan B. My heart breaks for those who traveled great distances and saw nothing. I hope sufficient attention is paid to this and don't foget the blue ticketholders.

Posted by: guynoir53 | January 21, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

It wasn't only purple - it was blue too. There were thousands of blue ticket holders denied entry. It was shameful how ticket holders were treated on treated.

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

My friends and I were also a part of the purple ticket experience. After about 45 minutes of standing on 1st St with very little movement, one police officer (completely alone) said purple tickets follow me. Some folks did. We figured we had nothing to lose. He led us down D St to New Jersey and up to a smaller line at the gate. Did anyone else follow this officer? It didn't seem like very many did at the time. The scene was further confused by the mingling of the yellow and purple lines, but our group kind of stuck together and managed to get in within the next 20-30 minutes.

We really thought we would be fine given that there are a limited number of tickets for each section, but clearly something in the system (or lack there of) did not work. The security screening itself went pretty quickly. I heard from one Senate staffer that tickets were being checked after people passed through security - at which point they were not turned back or directed to the appropiate section.

We were very lucky, and I'm very sorry for all the folks that didn't get inside.

Posted by: lolo15 | January 21, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I was also an unfortunate silver ticket holder. We arrived downtown in what we thought was plenty of time (before 9:00 a.m.), but due to the closing of the Federal Center SW Metro, had to walk back from Capitol South instead. There was very little direction to the silver ticket holder line, and lots of confusion. When we finally found the line (we had to ask the people in line--no-one official was to be found), we followed it for many, many blocks and never did get to the end.

As time passed, we realized the chances of not getting in were great, and did not want to risk waiting in line until 11:30 and missing the entire ceremony. So we left in time to find a cafe with a TV.

I think part of the problem was the silver area was supposed to have multiple entrances. On the final map/plan, it was down to one entrance. Had I focused on that sooner, we could have made a break for the less full areas behind the Washington Monument and instead enjoyed a view of a Jumbotron, still being on the Mall, without waiting in any "security" line.

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

I arrived at 1st and D Streets at 8:00 AM amidst a gridlock of people. The police tried to move vehicles and officers on bikes through the crowd and could not make any progress. The police did blare their sirens, which was deafening in the narrow canyon of buildings. An officer got on a bullhorn and demanded people to get into line, but we could not move because the crowd was tightly packed. About 10:15 Jesse Jackson moved through the crowd because he gave up trying to get in. It was a bit humorous to see Jesse in the same situation, which will teach him to endorse Clinton.

I gave up at 11:15 and so did many others. We worked our way to the Purple Gates and talked with others who had been waiting since 6:30 AM. Numerous people reported that the Purple Gates never opened. Why is anyone's guess.

There were no volunteers in the area, and the police were tired of trying to answer questions they had no answer for.

Later in the day we talked with some friends who had Silver tickets who were able to get in. They said that once inside the ticketed area the temporary fences between ticketed areas had been pushed down. Even more disturbing, they saw a complete breakdown of the gates and people were walking in with chairs and tripods. The ticketed area was full of nonticketed people.

People in the crowd were frustrated and angry, but everyone was on good behavior. We were not upset with each other.

The Inaugural Committee and the DC police have a vested interested in minimizing this issue. First, the crowd was far more than 4,000. There was a line six across and a half mile long, and the crowd at the corner of 1st and D was huge. Once I got to the closed Purple gates there was several thousand people milling about chanting, "Let Us In."

At 11:30 AM I made a mad dash to a Marriott Hotel and saw the ceremony on television.

This was a major disappointment for me and the

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

Don't cry for tickets, America !!!

Posted by: VoterfromIL | January 21, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

I had a ticket in the blue section and, like so many others, missed the historic event due to massive mismanagement and lack of organization. A friend of mine who had an orange ticket arrived at the same time as me and was inside within an hour while I still waited in an mass, not line, of thousands shuffling forward.

There were few to no signs, no one to giving directions or directing crowds, no line ropes or barriers, no updates or information, just a mass of forever hopeful people huddling together and trading rumors. After waiting almost two hours my section finally rounded a corner and it was a free for all of people running, not knowing which direction to go in. Many who got in simply skipped to the front of the line but most were simple stuck outside, so close to security but unable to get inside.

At one point someone decided to drive an enormous SUV diagonally across the line. Hundreds backed up trying to get out of the way but were still pressed against the car that exited over a large curb that it had trouble getting over. I had visions of someone, a child maybe, getting rolled back on but thankfully that didn't happen. What gross disorganization and neglect for safety.

Finally, 10 minutes before noon I left and crammed in Tortilla Coast with others were we struggled to hear the swearing in on the bar TV. People cheered and hugged and it was a wonderful moment. But, to have been an actual witness...

Posted by: ebonifaci | January 21, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

I had a ticket and decided not to attend when I saw the news and started getting calls about the chaos. I certainly was willing to stand outside for hours for the experience but I would have been extremely upset if I went through all that because I had a ticket and was denied entrance.

Also, why didn't the WaPo deliver enough papers to grocery stores and drug stores today? Didn't we already go through this on Nov. 5t? There were lines and sellouts throughout my neighborhood this morning.

Posted by: loved1 | January 21, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Couple of Points:
1- Lack of organization
2- Lack of signage
3- Lack of security personnel or volunteers who disseminated information.

To binky1313, if the people who were directed to the tunnel by the police had known that there was not going to be any chance of getting in, if there had been any information given to us by anyone, even if it was to tell us to leave, we would have gladly joined you at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (or would have joined the rest of America watching it from any TV). Everyone was thrilled to be there, people were chanting, singing and doing waves inside the tunnel up to the end but the utter lack of information, organization and competence in crowd control prevented most of them from making it out of the narrow streets around Labor Department and let alone near a TV. I agree that you may have had a better view via Jumbotron but because of the incompetence of the organizers many WERE duped into staying in line and forced to miss the inauguration.

Posted by: EVC80 | January 21, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

What happened yesterday was appalling. I waited in line for almost 4 hours only to find that the line the Capital Police had put us in hit a dead end. After asking a police officer what to do, I was instructed to get back in the same line that went nowhere! It really was the most frustrating experience of my life.

There was no management, information, or signage. Capital Police just ignored people or provide misinformation. Not one time did someone come by and let us know what was going on.

I was in line with two African American women in their 70’s that had traveled from Georgia and a man that had arrived at 4:30 a.m. with his young daughter. It was heartbreaking to see them both realize that they would not get in. People were crying all around me.

I am outraged for the thousands of people (and I guarantee it was way way way more than 5,000) that were abandoned and ignored.

These people need more than an apology. Someone needs to be fired.

Posted by: jradice81 | January 21, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't need to repeat the sad details of this disaster that have already been well documented in the many comments before me. I write to simply beg the Post to not let the stunningly low estimates being offered by the various officials of the ticketed folks denied entry go unchallenged. The numbers are far higher. I was in the Blue Ticket line and the number there alone certainly exceeded 5,000. The satellite photos tell all.

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

I have to agree with the outrage being expressed here. I was lucky enough to make it inside of the gate at 11:45am, which was 6 and a half hours after I first got in "line" at the corner of 1st and D. Bright (er, dark) and early at 5:15am there was a line for the purple ticket section, but around 7am when the masses descended onto the city it turned into utter chaos. At my particular intersection the main problem was that for some reason people without tickets were being directed to the intersection. People were going multiple directions and no one was moving.

The most ridiculous part was that just 50 yards ahead of where I was being slammed into a cement barricade by the masses, there was a huge opening, which I thought would take me and my friend to the promise land. However, once we finally got through the clogged intersection of 1st and D, we found several purple ticket lines and absolutely no direction about where to go. Luckily after another hour of being pushed and meandering through the masses we were pushed through the gate. As it got closer and closer to the program starting people became more and more restless and the situation became dangerous. At the end my feet were no longer touching the ground, I was floating in the crowd.

The bottom line is that there was absolutely NO organization. NONE. Which is farcical given that President Obama ran the most organized campaign in history. I don't know who is to blame, but there needs to be accountability. There were no signs or gates clearly marking where to go or where the "line" was located. They were expecting 2 million people, it's not like 4 million showed up and they were completely overwhelmed. There was just no organization, no signs, no volunteers pointing the way, and once the situation became dangerous the police simply pushed through the crowd rather than addressing the situation.

Thousands of people were stripped of their ability to witness history, even though they were supposedly guaranteed the opportunity by PIC. This situation and the lack of organization was a travesty and somebody or entity must be held accountable in some fashion.

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

I wanted to add my "purple" comments to those of others. First, only a miracle prevented the thousands (and I am certain it was more than 7,000)of purple ticket holders from becoming totally outraged and that was because of the trust in what our tickets said . We
like others arrived where our tickets indicated we should go (first street NW)at 7:20. At 10 or so we were told by DC police to go to the second street tunnel. We did so and were then an hour later sent back to first street where individuals were streaming back from the gates saying the gates were closed. I have been in other large crowd situations and have attended two other inaugurations and this one to my mind was poorly organized outside the main zone. When we left the metro none of the police knew where we were to go. There was no signage to tell us where to go and no one seemed to know what to do. In the tunnel and on first street, there was never an announcement made about what to do and never any police presence at all. It seems to me that those running the New Year's Eve celebration at Times Square could help with this effort in the future.
Certainly, I was saddened for our family but we had only a drive down 95. What about the woman from Ohio whose 70th birthday was on inauguration day? What about the family coming in from Indiana who were directed to the House side of the Capitol and then had to come back a circuitous route and wait in the tunnel?
What about all the people who came from California, Texas, and every state in the nation? Having won the lottery so to speak of getting a ticket, how sad to be unable to take advantage of the situation in person.

I think that for anyone who had to fly to the inauguration and didn't get in, there should be special opportunities with the President in their states.

It was very, very sad to hear the head of the Capitol Police state that so many were satisfied and they were told all ticket holders were in the area. How could they know that when no one was available to report in to them? There should have been signs all over for lines and ticket holders as well as ways to report back to the central law enforcement individuals at the Capitol.

Let's hope something can be done for those who were so disappointed and came from so far away.
Ellen S. Smith

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

I had the same experiences as many of the Blue Ticket holders. We arrived at 7:30 and ended up "watching" the president's address through the fence around the ticketed area. We actually couldn't see anything, but were at least looking in the general direction. We barely could hear the address, not because there were any speakers, but because the girl next to us put her phone on speaker phone and we listened as her mom held the phone to the TV.

But the biggest slap in the face was the TSA staff member who turned around and took a picture of the depressed crowd.

I flew all the way out from Washington State, and had been on such an emotional high since I knew I was for sure going to be receiving tickets back in December. And I was so happy that after standing in line (for at least an hour and a half) to get my tickets, I pulled them out and saw that they were in the Blue section, which was closer than the Silver tickets I assumed I was going to be getting. After being so excited for so long (months!) to have this not work out was an emotional crash to say the least. I went back, after seeing nothing but peoples' heads and uninformed people in uniform, in tears and feeling sorry that I will always have a bittersweet feeling about this historic event. I am not looking forward to getting home and having to rehash this story over and over to all the people who were so excited for me.

And CNN was really making me mad as we watched when we got back yesterday, because they let me know that everything was amazing for everyone who came to D.C. for their chance at witnessing history. Where's the coverage (aside from here) of our debacle???

Oh, and I'm really happy I invested in that new camera with the awesome zoom, that never zoomed in on anything.

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


Seems like the 5,000 person estimate is incredibly disingenuous. We had Blue tickets and jumped out of line at 11:15. It was not an easy decision without any information but at the end we decided a view of a jumbotron from from the Washington Monument was better than being blocked in an angry crowd at 12:01. We were in the "line" moving from the House buildings toward the Blue gate. In 4 hours we were about to make the turn toward the Blue Gate. There were well over 5,000 people in just the Blue Gate area and we passed by lots more at the Silver Gate.

My only regret was not getting the phone number of some of the people we were near. After joining the crowd at the Washington Monument, we still wonder if the line moved enough that we would have made it in...

Posted by: paulebrennan | January 21, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

I was a Silver Ticket holder that experienced many of the same issues encountered by the purple and blue ticket holders. My wife and I left our place shortly after the Metro began running service and were seeking to find the line for our gate right around 7am. We were initially sent directly against the purple line traffic on 1st & D. Then, after several hours of fighting that crowd, we were able to eventually locate the end of the line for silver ticket holders which quickly deteriorated into a mass mob with no crowd control or communication offered by the capital police -- only threats not to cross the street. We never made it in and my only wish is that any issues would have been communicated so that we would have had an opportunity to seek out other alternatives before the swearing in. Actually, I have a few more wishes - that there is a clear acknowledgment of the issues and shortcomings, that the numbers of affected individuals are fully acknowledged, and that this was ABSOLUTELY NOT the result of a relatively few "discombobulated" ticket holders or puffy coats!

Posted by: discombobulated1 | January 21, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Here are facts from two purple ticket-holders:
1) We arrived near the 1st and D street corner by 8:30 a.m. We then waited without making any forward progress until almost 11:00 a.m.
2) The jam-packed throng on this block were often very tightly crushed together by the need to help people "exit" the area nearer the "gate," which we could not see. We heard from other tickets-holders that those exiting were people with the wrong ticket color or without tickets at all. We heard that if we helped these misplaced people exit our line we would then be able to move forward.
3) We formed a human "corridor" to help hundreds of people exit our street, hoping that soon we would be able to move forward ourselves. Among those "exiting" was Jesse Jackson.
4) Several people who needed medical attention were also squeezed out through our human corridor; we also had to squeeze so that cars and medical aid cars could get through this intensely crowded block
5) Throughout the time we were waiting in vain we never heard anyone whith a bullhorn nor ever received an official update as to what was really happening; there was absolutely no direction and no one appeared to be in charge of anything
6) When we finally turned the corner toward the Purple Gate, we heard from others in the crowd that it had been closed due to a security breach
7) Once we could see the Purple Gate ahead it was absolute chaos, without any clear lines and with no one offering any direction as to what to do at this point
8) Ticketholders had no idea what to do and rumors flew as we heard that we had to go to the Yellow Gate, that the Purple Gate was no longer open at all - this was around 11:00 a.m.
9) About 11:15 we gave up and headed to Union Station to watch the ceremony in a bar on TV.
10) At no time was our crowd restive, pushy, or trying to break through any barriers; people were incredibly kind and patient.
10) Until the end, I naively assumed that the Inaugural Committee had handled similar sized crowds in past in these very same ticketed areas and that we would eventually make our way through the system they had devised.


Posted by: dianemc45 | January 21, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

"I understand it may have been frustrating, but the option was certainly not Purple Section or go home. We had plenty of room on our side, and we were just as thrilled to be there...

Posted by: binky1313 | January 21, 2009 3:33 PM"

I would have happily gone to the Mall and watched in the unticketed section IF ANYONE had ever told us we were not going to get in. I was on the Mall at 6 AM in front of a jumbotron, on my way to my section (purple). I left because I had tickets. I stood 15 ft in front of the purple gate from 11 AM until they closed it, with no explanation, at 11:55. There was hardly time to get anywhere by then. All it would have taken was an officer with a bullhorn telling us we were not going to get in and I am certain we ALL would have left for the Mall. There was a complete breakdown in all communication and crowd control, with NO police or National Guard presence on the north side of the Mall. Stop blaming the tickerholders. WE did everything right, including getting there several hours early. The organizers screwed up, big time, and that is all there is to it!

Posted by: kashabear | January 22, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I was one of the winners of two tickets to the Inauguration through Congressman McHugh's lottery. I arrived at my ticket area (purple) at 4:30 am. Despite waiting for 7 and a half hours, I never got in the gate. Many thousands of other ticket holders around and behind me never got in.

We waited in a patient line of very cold people for the first several hours. The line eventually snaked around the block and into a tunnel. As the sun was coming up a bus blocked foot traffic out of the area, the crowd started backing up, and it seems that people started going around the block and towards the purple gate from the other direction. The line thickened more and more and then collapsed into total chaos. We moved forward as best we could, but never got in the gate. They were moving very few people in the gate very slowly.

I was next to an elderly African American woman from Oklahoma who had come with her daughter for the purple section. She was separated from her daughter and very tired. It was a terrible shame. We were very squished at the end and scared. Three people around me during the day collapsed and people had to call for a long time for medical help. At one point I felt myself lose my footing and realized I was being held up by the crowd.

In the 7 and a half hours that I waited, I witnessed not a single effort by the very few security people and officers on hand to control or direct the crowd. There were no bathroom facilities.

The Inaugural Committee has apologized for the fiasco and now say they are conducting an investigation. They have said that the problems were mostly due to the huge crowds on hand. Not true. Our area was mostly people with tickets waiting in an orderly way since very early to get in. They simply did not plan in any way how to organize the crowd of ticket holders They did not have the staff on hand to get people into the gates fast enough. They should not have given out those tickets without a plan in place for getting us in the area. There was no plan.

Our society owes a huge debt to the many elderly African American people who were there, some who were active in the civil rights movement and suffered under segregation. It is a crime that those people came to DC with the promise of attending the event of their lives, just to suffer that chaos and danger and disappointment.

Despite all this, overall the crowd was friendly and positive. One nice thing happened at the end after the gate shut: The crowd thankfully dispersed a bit and hundreds of small groups spontaneously formed around cell phones, straining quietly to hear Obama's speech on speaker phone, as people had called friends and asked them to put the phone to the TV. There was total quiet except for his distant voice and people crying with bowed heads. Such a feeling of sadness for how the day had turned out, but also love for our new President and deep pride.

Amy Catania
Saranac Lake, New York

Posted by: acatania | January 22, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I too was among the throng of purple ticket holders who endured the bitter cold and poorly organization. As others have said there was no police or volunteer presence to give directions or updates on the status of the line. Through it all the purple ticket holders were pleasant and cooperative. We all did exactly what we where supposed to do. We all mistakenly assumed that our tickets assured us of getting inside too see the ceremony. Even after it became clear that we were not getting in there was an atmosphere of disappointment and sadness not of anger. I noticed several people in tears. I think this reflects the level emotional investment that people had in this campaign and in this man who is now our president. I was very disappointed. We were easily there early enough to have gone to the Mall to watch on the Jumbotrons had we known our tickets would turn out to be worthless. As it happened the Mall area had been closed by the time we had spent over four hours waiting in the line to the purple gate, and we saw nothing. Nonetheless I am very proud and happy about the inauguration of our 44th president. I'll try again at the inauguration of his second term

Posted by: chrismandelmiller | January 22, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

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