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Officials: Too Many Tickets for Blue, Purple Areas

6:40 pm. -- Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer estimated that several thousand people with blue and purple tickets could not get into the designated sections.

“It does appear that maybe there were more tickets in purple and blue than bulky people in coats would permit,” he said.

Gainer said the purple and blue areas, which were designated as standing areas for people, filled up while ticketholders were still in line. Police opened some areas that weren’t supposed to be for the crowds, but that still didn’t accommodate all the ticketholders.

Another problem on the blue side also slowed the security process.

“On the blue side, we lost a generator over there temporarily,” he said.

That meant police had to switch from magnetomers to hand wanding.

But Gainer tried to put the problems in perspective: “Four to 5,000 people were discombobulated. There was another 236,000 who were very happy with the service."

-- Mary Beth Sheridan

By Amy L. Kovac  |  January 20, 2009; 6:47 PM ET  | Category:  Crowds , Swearing-in Ceremony , Tickets
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Comments



As much respect as I have for the Sergeant-at-Arms, I have to say that he may be underestimating the number of unhappy customers by a bit.

The "temporary" loss of a generator actually amounted to the complete shutdown of a good chunk of the metal detectors - not their fault, but a contingency plan should have been in place. And it doesn't explain the lack of movement for the Blue section that occurred during the first half hour that screening was supposed to occur.

Posted by: ak362 | January 20, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I had a blue ticket, and there were substantially more than 5000 "discombobulated" people. I left the line at 11 when it became clear that I had a 0% chance of seeing anything at all. I was far from the only one, and when I left there were easily more than 5000 people standing on Washington Av and C St SW.

The biggest problem was the utter absence of direction. There was not a police officer to be found. Chants of "yes, we can" quickly because "What's going on?"

Posted by: noahmamis | January 20, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

This is simply untrue. How can we get there at 6:30 a.m. and not get in until nearly noon!!! And we had plenty of room to walk. Stop the coverup people. You did a horrible job. You did NO crowd control and you let people down. We know what happened.

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

That is vastly understating the situation, if not lying.

The Purple ticket entrance never even opened. There was nobody in charge and the crowd situation was extremely dangerous.

Posted by: Larchmont10538 | January 20, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I were in the Blue line with our tickets by 7:30. It was chaos from the start, with no attempt at crowd control and no attempt at communication from any authority. We were within 50 feet of the entrance, crushed in, until 12:15. I've seen more organizational effort at college registration day than at this inauguration. Utter incompetence and a real threat to public safety. I'd estimate at least 8000 people unable to get into the blue section alone. There is no excuse for this failure of public safety. Children were scared and crying, elderly people were being crushed. Shameful organizing, and a humiliating indignity.

Posted by: seth76 | January 20, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

I was one of those thousands of purple ticket holders who was shut out of the viewing section. My niece and I followed instructions on our tickets and from the Judiciary Square metro stop eventually found our staging area by 5:30 a.m. We stood at D Street near First Street for more than FIVE hours in 25-degree weather. The first hour was okay because we were in the tunnel. The next four were beyond miserable because we stood on cold pavement with a constant blowing wind. None of the police officers we saw could answer our questions about procedures. We were completely in limbo.

We got to First Street at 11 a.m. only to be told the purple gate was closed. In desperation we heard people were being allowed in through the purple exit area. Thousands of us rushed over, and inched our way to that gate. At about 11:50, some woman announced the gate was closed. Several people cried. I was close to tears. Heck, if I'm honest I'd say I did cry.

We traveled from thousands of miles at great expense for a momentous, historic event. We could not get to someone's home to watch on television. We were just stuck out in the cold. That 5,000 figure is a gross underestimate. The disappointment is much more than I can express right now. Suffice it to say someone from the planning committee and D.C. Chief Morse will hear from me.

Posted by: CocoaLove | January 20, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

The Sergeant-at-Arms needs to put "into perspective" that many of the thousands of ticket-holders who were denied entrance to the ceremony traveled across the country, paid thousands of dollars, and planned months in advance to be there. The truth is that it was an organizational mess with no officials communicating with ticket holders. Instead of arrogantly defending their work in making "236,000...very happy with the service", perhaps the Sergeant-at-Arms should apologize for the mismanagement and poor planning on the Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies' part that caused those thousands to miss the ceremony.

Posted by: takesonaclassic | January 20, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

The lack of organization in the blue area was unacceptable. We were jammed like sardines for over 2 hours, with no direction and no police or information staff to be located.

I'm grateful we did not have an emergency or this situation would have been a complete nightmare, due to the failure in process. No one seemed to be in charge!

We didn't let it ruin our experience, although it was a 4 hour waste of valuable time during this incredible event.

Posted by: cjross1 | January 20, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

I was in the blue line, and managed to squeeze in at about 11:40, literally just in time for the ceremony. I'm appalled by Sergeant-at-Arms Gainer's comment that a few thousand were "discombobulated," and agree with seth76 that the Capitol Police are lucky no one was hurt. The crowd was extraordinarily good-natured given the circumstances. A total failure on the part of the Capitol Police, despite Gainer's contemptuous excuses for their failures.

Posted by: gayle25 | January 20, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

What service is Gainer referring to? What excuses will be manufactured for the purple and silver sections? Electronic signs, bull horn advisories up and down the line vastly exceeding 5000 discombobulated ticketholders, e-mail alerts, ANY such service even remotely attempted to address the capacity or security concerns allegedly becoming evident as the morning progressed would have permitted a highly peaceful mob to disperse and make other plans, which is apparently what Gainer is suggesting he was hoping would happen. How was that supposed to occur without the slightest effort to provide that information? What an embarrassment.

Posted by: pbirkmeier | January 20, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

The Sergeant-at-Arms statement is completely untrue. To echo statements above, more than 5000 alone were stuck in on Washington Street outside the Blue Gate (but within sight of it) for more than 2 hours without any communication or ability to get in OR out. The two police officers who came by during the 2 hours did not provide any information, they literally just stood there. It was a dangerous situation -- it was only due to the great civility of the crowd that no one was hurt.

Posted by: wizfan007 | January 20, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Good heavens, this has to be a red herring, far-fetched and ill-conceived attempt at trying to cover up what really happened. Or an out-and-out lie. There is no way....NO way....that the ticketed blue area "filled up" before our 4:30 a.m. arrival, thereby denying out entry. No way. First the chief of the Capitol Police offers a blatant lie or omission of ignorance, and now the Sergeant at Arms?? Where is the sanity? Where is the WAPO investigating what really happened? And excuse me, "...four to 5,000 people were discombobulated"???? Are you kidding me???? There were at least half that many people -- and that's a low estimate -- at the blue gate alone who were denied. While I'm certainly not a conspiracy theorist, I am beginning to question the seemingly contagious insanity and inanity of the comments of these officials in response to the crescendoing demands for explanation of today's unbelievable mismanagement and disrespect, rudeness and even cruelty to the citizens of this country who arrived full of hope and belief and happiness. Oh, and tickets.

Posted by: lolaindc | January 20, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

It was not just the blue areas that were shut down. In front of the area where the "silver gate" sign was, the police officers would not let us cross the street. They then after a while just let people cross. They were letting people walk up Independence Avenue that did not have tickets and onto 3rd Street. There were no police officers in the crowd beyond the emergency sign that said "silver gate" telling us what to do or where to go. People just kept pushing tighter and tighter. I find the arrogance of saying 236,000 happy customers to be a flat out lie.

Posted by: bsiskind81 | January 20, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

So 4-5,000 people simply don’t matter? Thank you, Mr. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer, for your complete disrespect to myself, my sister, and the more than 4-5,000 people that you (under)estimated were left out in the cold (literally). I now realize that your and the Inaugural Committee's complete incompetence was really my fault - I obviously overestimated my worth as a person. I sincerely hope that you think more highly of the people you are charged with protecting.

Posted by: littlelulu8 | January 20, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

I was looking forward to being a "witness to history" and when I found out that I got a purple ticket, I thought I was lucky. I ended up waiting in line from 7:45am until 10:30 when we were told the purple ticket gate was closed. By that time it was too late to find any other spot to view the events. I know this is a joyous occasion for the nation and for the lucky ones that actually got in, but my memory of this day will be tainted with the disapointment.

If I knew that a purple ticket was nothing more than a souvenier, then I would have just just joined the "masses" and went straight to finding a viewing spot on the Mall instead of standing in line for 3 hours only to be shut out.

Somebody needs to acknowledge that is a real problem and at least give a sincere appology, if nothing else...this shouldn't just be brushed under the rug...

Posted by: captandyhunt | January 20, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Their denials are growing as tiresome as the wait.

I had a purple ticket and was shunted at 7AM by the police into that damn tunnel. There were EASILY 50k people in that tunnel. EASILY. The line stretched for miles. I've been to sporting events at 50k-seat stadiums with smaller crowds.

Only ticketed people were allowed in there at the outset but once in there we were ignored and kept in there like sardines. No info. No police. It was chaotic at best. The DC police are SO lucky there was no major problem in there - there were no bathrooms or water - nor any room to move should an emergency have occurred.

It was, simply, SHOCKING incompetence.

Posted by: nandoadler | January 20, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

The explanations offered by these law enforcement officials are laughable and utterly belied by the experiences of those, like me, who wasted their mornings only to be shut out of the ticketed areas. What a joke this failed exercise in crowd management was. They knew exactly how many people would show up for the ticketed areas, and they knew when they'd show up. But the cops didn't just perform less than perfectly in these foreseeable circumstances. They were simply absent.

Posted by: SpiralStairs | January 20, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Boy, that was service! Thanks, Sgt. Gainer. Can you hit me upside the head while you're at it? Black-and-blue to go with my unused Purple ticket.

Posted by: timweber | January 20, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Quit your complaining people. God bless the Sergeant at Arms.

Posted by: popopo | January 20, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

I echo everyone else's statements. That there just was not space inside for everyone is untrue--once inside the gate (6 hours after arriving), the space was FINE. The problem was lack of organization, direction, & control by officials...from what we heard, checkpoints were not operational. If there had been planning--with established barriers for lines and crowd control--things could have been better. I can think of any number of things to have made this go more smoothly--volunteers, police presence, starting on time, timed tickets, more detailed instructions...

Whatever you do, don't blame the ticket holders. They followed instructions and it is only because of their patience and overwhelming good spirits that there were no tragedies. If they were less orderly, there could have been some dire consequences.

Posted by: plangal | January 20, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

I could just cry. He is lying, lying, lying, and now I also understand how it must feel to be a helpless person accused of something you did not do, and the police make something up.

We were there by six thirty a.m. We could see the blue gates. We were close. And already nothing was moving. We were less than a block away. And from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., we moved ten feet or less. And our tickets said to be there at nine- I wish we had just done that, it would have been the same outcome.

We saw the generator being wheeled in, and that would explain why dwe did not move for over an hour.

But to claim that bulky coats are the problem??? And that the blue area filled up while people were still in line? Filled up by whom? If we were there by 6:30 am., and that close to the gates to get in, but could not, who filled those spaces up? Parkas?

And the entire time there was only ONE police officer there who did not tell us anything. He stood up on some podium thing and said not one peep. When the crowds from the back of the surged forward and cut in, he stood there silently. When I went over to him near tears to ask why this was being allowed, this total chaos and breakdown? Why we moved a few steps in one hour, he would not answer me other than to say get back in line. What line? It was utter chaos.

And the arrogance and cruelty of his comment - that were were over 236K happy people? How utterly callous and dismissive of those who were there almost six hours before it started, and never moved more than a few feet in five hours, and he blames coats.

In addition, it was NOT five thousand blue ticket holders. The crowd looked like it was twenty thousand, and this is the fault of those who printed the tickets and gave too many out. Which leads me to think this was a real nice cash cow for the DC area. All that money we all spent? Nice.

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

To simply say that what occurred today for purple ticket holders was a result of bulky coats and over-distributed tickets is an egregious misrepresentation of what happened. In reality, the safety and security of at least 30,000 people was jeopardized today by the DC police and the inaugural committee.

I spent four hours in the 3rd Street tunnel, having arrived this morning at 6 am. I was directed to stand in line by a DC police officer. This was my last interaction with anyone in an official capacity for the remaining four hours. Crowds swelled inside the tunnel as tens of thousands of ticket holders arrived well in advance of the gates opening and unsafe conditions persisted.

Mobility was completely limited and the DC police made no effort to direct the crowd or to communicate with us. If there had been a health emergency there would have been no recourse.

When I was finally able to exit the tunnel, I found myself in a crush of people. When I saw a cop, I asked him why we had been lined up in the tunnel for four hours. His response was that he was unaware that they had lined people up in a tunnel. Apparently the DC police even neglected to communicate with each other and completely overlooked the security of tens of thousands of ticket holders (many young children).

I realize that today's event were on an unprecedented scale. Still, to white wash the truth behind this story and call the completely lack of communication and regard for safety the result of a few bulky coats is disgraceful. The DC police and the inaugural committee should be held accountable for this breach of duty.


Posted by: hpeis | January 20, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

I have to say that this four to five thousand, as the number of ticket holders who were refused entry, is erronous. I would say the actual number is at least fifteen thousands and maybe higher.

On my personal experience, I got to the gate at around 11:50 when the Capitol Police did not allow any more else to enter. I could also see several thousand people behind me and this was only the purple gate.

I think what makes people frustrated the most are two facts: one, no one said anything about what was going on. If we had been told the area was full and we would be better off going to the Mall or home, much of this frustrated would have been avoided. Two, there was no police presence along the lines. It was a big, big mess and very frustrating. I moved the distance of one block in four hours. Some office or someone from PIC or the JCCIC could have come and helped with the situation. This was simply a lack of respect for the people who traveled so far and waited so long to just see a gate.

Posted by: publius02 | January 20, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

WELCOME TO WASHINGTON-ALL YOU OUT OF TOWNERS! HOME TO TOWERING INCOMPETENCE BY ITS ELECTED OFFICIALS, VICIOUS, NAZI-LIKE LAW ENFORCEMENT, AND UTTERLY CHAOTIC CROWD PLANNING!

THIS IS NOT LIKE YOUR HOMETOWN-IT IS NOT LIKE ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY-IT IS, AND ALWAYS WILL BE, A COMPLETELY NON-FUNCTIONING CITY-STATE!

SIGNED-
A NATIVE WASHINGTONIAN!

Posted by: arrabbiato | January 20, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Terrence Gainer really is an idiot too. This is just ridiculous spin for a tremendous failure. People crammed for hours within yards of the gate. No officials within sight. The problem had nothing to do with bulky coats.

Posted by: stephwright | January 20, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

I think it rather silly to expect that 2 million + people can pour into DC with no problems, no delays, no overflows.
And frankly I've no sympathy for anyone who complains now about the crowding problems they contributed to. But then what else to expect from the ObaBots?
As it is we threw 170 million$$$$ down the ObaHole for the ObaFraud.
Look what we got!
This people is our future under Saint Obama.
Even before he was sworn in he was making excuses for his lies and deceptions and broken promises.
If Hussein couldn't get that right (geez and crackers, he couldn't even get his oath right! but then we told ya he's no good without his teleprompter) what does he offer for our future?
Oh I know: the cold soup of HOPE and the little bit of loose CHANGE he'll leave in our pockets.
Queen Obama ascends his throne...

Posted by: jthandbook | January 20, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

I was heartbroken by the lack of organization and police presence at the blue ticket gate, especially since we have been told for weeks about all of the preparations that were being made for this inauguration. The orange ticket holders were moving smoothly through a line right next to us, but we were stuck in a huge crowd in the middle of the street with no where to go, no idea what was happening, and NO ONE TRYING TO FIX IT.

As sad as I am that my husband and I, DC residents, didn't get in to the blue ticketed section, I am even more upset for all of those that paid hundreds of dollars to fly across the country, only to have our city exhibit the worst of itself for them on what should have been the happiest day.

I deeply respect the sergeant-at-arms, but he has no idea what happened out there today or how many people's dream of seeing such a historic inauguration were crushed. For him to dismiss me, my many friends who also didn't get in, and all the thousands of others around me is naive and despicable.

Posted by: cupiditas | January 20, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and jthandbook, it was the chief justice who got the oath wrong, not Obama, so please know of which you speak.

Posted by: cupiditas | January 20, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

I was a blue ticket holder who was fortunate enough to get through the security gates at 10:30 after being in line for three and a half hours. Once inside, there was ample room so I simply do not believe the statement that there were too many tickets issued for the space. Rather, this appeared to be a failure of planning and execution. The Blue gate did not open until after 9:00. There were no officers, officials, or volunteers visible anywhere to provide direction, maintain control, or provide assistance. And it was hard to understand why they didn't open the gate much earlier.

Posted by: lewhite | January 20, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Unbelievable. Bulky people in coats? (Which I can only presume was meant to be people in bulky coats) That's the best they can come up with?

Posted by: dc-caphill | January 20, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Outrageous. This is completely untrue. The line didn't move for hours... The only time we saw it move was when people were bailing out of the line... I mean horde of people. We didn't see a single policeman the whole time we were waiting in line. We were all so lucky that the crowd handled things well... Otherwise it could have been extremely dangerous.

Posted by: nfitz10 | January 20, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

I exited Judiciary Square at 8 a.m., I proceeded to 1st and D NW, the street was jam packed and not moving (and a bus had been allowed to block the street?!). Luckily for us, we're from DC, so we knew the streets well, and we were not all surprised that the DC/Capitol police had no idea what was going on. We went around to Louisiana Ave, there was no signage anywhere. We keep moving until finally we saw a "Purple Entrance" sign, but there was no clear line anywhere. We just keep moving, we saw what looked like several "lines", but we never let ourselves get stuck not moving. It looked like, and now sounds like anyone who followed the directions of entering through 1st and D was stuck. We somehow found a moving line along the fench in an inconspicuous corner, within 10 minutes we were in the fence. Looking back, there was no organization, no fences to keep lines moving, the police - capitol and DC - had no clue, gave no advice. Why couldn't someone have spent a fraction of the budget to organize lines. The rate of letting ticket holders into the metal detectors was WAY too slow - only one person was at each detector once we got in - THIS is the reason I believe so many people didn't get in - and that was poor planning. Once we got in, by 8:30, we were surprised that the purple section was practically empty - so was blue, there was no barrier between the two sections. For 3 hours only a trickle of ticket holders entered - of course by 11 as the motorcade came by, the gate was closed - I believe this is what folks were talking about - the purple gate definitely WAS open at 8:30 - but you had to be lucky to find the line. Around 11:30 a flood of people suddenly started flowing in, but instead of filling the section in the middle, which was totally empty, they were forced to overfill the side (north) section - none of them made it to the largely empty middle - which were the best standing spots. Again, poor organization. I feel badly for everyone who came from out of town and expected things to be even somewhat organized. The proof is in the picture on the WPost from a helicopter, taken at 11:18 - it shows the purple/blue sections empty in the middle. It also shows the silver sections nearly 80% empty! (and to the south it shows a huge mass of people trying to enter through the silver gate) All I can suggest is that you contact the member of Congress that gave you your ticket, they had to make tough decisions to award their tix, and they will not be happy to know the tix were not used because DC/Capitol police were not given good instructions. This all falls on the top police officials, and they know it, otherwise they wouldn't be trying to hard to cover themselves now. Personal responsibility - its time for change....

Posted by: kippel74 | January 20, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Nobody would ever expect it to be cold in January.

Bulky coats are now the excuse?

Posted by: chris_wiz | January 20, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

We were so excited to be at the inauguration! We had tickets to the blue section and could not wait. However, we were so upset with the set up. This being the most expensive inauguration, we expected it to be a little more organized. We waited for 4 hours and just barely made it in to see Obama. People were so rude cutting in front of others and pushing and shoving to get in. This was an event to be united and it wasn't. But hopefully this does not foreshadow the path of the administration. All the money spent could have been used in a better way.

Posted by: Tryingtobeoptimistic | January 20, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

How sad. There was plenty of room over by the Lincoln Memorial where I was standing. They could at least have ferried some folks over and let them onto the grounds.

Posted by: amelias | January 20, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I were two of the so-called 5,000. We need to compile our names to show the true number was much higher so that the people in charge are held accountable and not allowed to cover up for their blunders.
My wife and I are very disappointed, but we feel really bad for all the people who traveled from far away, especially the older folks who were put in a very dangerous situation. The police need to amend their remarks and apologize to the thousands of us for this badly handled situation.

Posted by: joelolympian | January 20, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

I walked from Dupont Circle for two-hours trying to get across the mall to the blue ticket entrance. Check points all the way up to the Capitol were closed, until we finally got behind the Capitol down 2nd St NE and spent another 25 minutes trying to find the blue line. There was no signage or communication from start to finish. If DC was expecting 2 million people, and they estimate that 2 million people came--what accounts for this huge failure in giving the crowds direction and moving them through the lines? Faulty medical detectors and bulky coats? What a joke! I too missed the swearing in while standing in a blue line hoping to get in. If they would have told us the line was shut down, we could have found another spot from which to watch. The utter lack of communication is frustrating. I'm very surprised no one was trampled. They are grossly underestimating the number of people who didn't get in. So disappointing!

Posted by: WPA2 | January 20, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

The sergeant at arms is seriously underestimating the number of people who didn't get in - there were at least 5000, maybe 10000 in the blue line area that didn't get in.

Posted by: betsydriver | January 20, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

can someone please describe where the blue/purple sections were and where the line of people waiting to get is on the satelite photos that are on washingtonpost.com's main page? Just trying to visually put it into perspective.

Posted by: qwerty652 | January 20, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

I was in the purple line from early AM, and got in only because I was able to go through an empty yellow security checkpoint at the last minute. Judging by the size of the line and the amount of empty space in the purple section, I would say that at least 15,000-20,000 people were denied entry in that section alone.

Posted by: silspr77 | January 20, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

A picture's worth a thousand words. Compare the satellite photo to the seating chart. How were those crowds in the checkpoint area supposed to fit into the remaining room in the standing areas? And you can't even see the people who say they were waiting in a tunnel.

http://www.geoeye.com/CorpSite/gallery/detail.aspx?iid=220&gid=1

http://www.greatseats.com/inauguration/info_swearing_in.asp

Posted by: jp1012 | January 20, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

SHAME SHAME SHAME- SOOOOOOOOOOO DISAPPOINTED!
Totally unorganized, absolutely no lines of communication;
NO ONE HAD A CLUE WHAT WAS GOING ON!
The only lines of communication were individual people using their cell phones to call the AMBULENCES for needy and sick people.
What a mess!

Posted by: sodisappointed | January 20, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

On the satellite photo, look for the major clusters of dots (i.e., people) that aren't on the Mall. You'll see many at the top and bottom of the right end of the page. The purple gate was on the north-side of the Mall and the blue gate was on the south-side.

Posted by: stephwright | January 20, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

I was so disappointed and saddened to hear about the thousands of ticket holders who were turned away from their designated viewing sections on inauguration day. I am one of many Washingtonians who chose to watch the proceedings from my nice warm living room. But those who traveled here, endured cold and inconvenience and then were prevented from entering, were wronged and deserve an apology from Federal law enforcement. Yes, that's right; Capitol Police and Park Police are in charge of enforcing crowd control and everything else that happens on Federal property such as the Capitol grounds and the Mall, not DC Police. Just a point of clarification. I hope Terry Gainer

Posted by: merrychase | January 20, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

I guess that cluck Gainer doesn't wear bulky clothing in winter because he has indoor parking and has no clue as to what goes on outside the Capitol. He reminds me of the Exxon head of public relations after the Valdez incident and Exxon cardholders sent in their credit cards in protest. Holding up some of their cards his respond was, to paraphrase, "...that's okay we don't need them, we have thousands and thousands of other customers..." Guess Gainer, like Exxon, is only concerned about the 236,000 who supposedly got in and to the others...tough luck who cares. Hopefully Senator Finstein, Committee Chair will get all these comments and all future mail regarding this matter and take punitive action against Gainer for his remarks. He should be made to spend his own money to publically apologize to all who were left in line.

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

My husband and I waited in the line for blue ticket holders for almost 4 hours. We got through security and into the blue section about 2 minutes before Obama took the oath, and right before they shut the gate down. The blue section had plenty of open space, so the sergeant-at-arms' comment that the section filled up is completely untrue. I have never experienced anything so disorganized- it got scary at times.

Posted by: kate_s1978 | January 20, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to know who took my place on the lawn of the Capitol today. From what I could see on TV the spaces for blue ticket holders were taken by people other than us, the blue ticket holders. How could this be and who were you??????!!!!!!!! A huge disappointment. I'm just happy that something horrible didn't happen since there wasn't a police presence to protect us.

Posted by: simpleton2 | January 20, 2009 9:51 PM | Report abuse

My family and I learned after waiting in vain for hours in the Purple ticket line in and around the 3rd St Tunnel that Capitol Police will lie and deny about the tens of thousands of ticketed persons who were denied entry. If T. Gainer were honest, he would simply say that they weren't prepared for the number of attendees and he doesn't know how many were still in line since there was no police or volunteer presence in the tunnel. Instead, he makes up a "small" number and calls them "discombobulated", as if those persons were at fault.

We started the day with hope that we were turning the page from authorities abusing their power and lying about it, but it's clear now that we're still reading the same old lines. After what happened, I couldn't make myself watch reports about the ceremony or parade. I want to regain my optimism about the new Administration, but that's hard to do right now, and my children keep asking how the planners could have done such a poor job.

Posted by: beltwaylifer | January 20, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

We were purple ticket holders, and our story is the same: there by 6:30 a.m., in tunnel for hours, turned away with broken hearts around 11:30. And yes we did travel from out of state, with difficult logistic challenges and significant expense, together with my husband's brother and his wife, who left their 18-month-old baby overnight for the first time in order to watch this once-in-a-lifetime moment -- and who had to WEAN her in order to do so. They were looking forward to being able to tell her about seeing President Obama sworn in someday. Instead, we faced a near riot and stampede and had no time -- and no place -- to find a television to even see it live that way. Some communication -- telling us to leave, for example -- might have enabled us at least to view it somewhere else. We'll never watch a clip from this event and not re-live this heartbreak. I urge us all to write our representatives and Diane Feinstein so they hold those responsible for this outrage accountable -- and I would point out to them how incredibly dangerous it was to have thousands of people who had yet to clear security in a tunnel under the capitol for hours without a single volunteer or security person in sight!

Posted by: crawpip | January 20, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Add another couple to the 15,000+

We stayed until a little before noon when we realized there was no chance of getting in. As we left, we walked from within 30 feet of the Blue Gate (Washington @ Independence SE) to an east / south east entrance of the Rayburn House office building (approximately 2000 feet, according to Google maps). For more than 3/4 of that distance, the Blue Gate ticketholders were still waiting in a line that was back-to-back and at least 20 people wide throughout. Assuming each person occupies an area of 2x2 feet (generous, based on my experience in line), that would mean...

Distance (Length): ~1500'

Width (assumes 20 people at 2' width per person): ~40'

Total area of the uncontrolled mass that was the purported line: ~60,000 SF

Total number of cold, eager Blue Gate ticketholders (assuming 4 SF per person): ~15,000

Posted by: knehdi | January 20, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

I left the blue ticket area sobbing when it became apparent that I would not get in. I was not "discombobulated" (as this implies that I would merely be confused and disoriented) but rather frustrated and extremely, extremely upset. The utter lack of enforcement and crowd control astonishes me.

Posted by: evolberding | January 20, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Everything stated above is what I experienced as well. Gainer's clear lack of information and disregard for the many thousands of staffers, volunteers and organizers who EARNED those tickets is shameful. Mr. Gainer should have checked his own sattelite images (http://specials.washingtonpost.com/inauguration/satellite/) before releasing that statement. You can see how many people are packed in the "staging" areas for blue and purple and how much open space there was inside those areas! Plenty of room for my coat.
Gainer and Senator Feinstein, the "organizer" of the events, should be ashamed of this failure and at least admit to it and apologize for ruining what should have been a the reward for our hard work and a memory to tell our grandchildren about. I would strongly encourage everyone left out in the cold to email the Senator (senator@feinstein.senate.gov) and call the Sergeant At Arms office (202-224-2341) to encourage an apology. Since there were only 5000 or so of us they shouldn't mind the feedback. There is also already a Facebook site about experience http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=61444130820.

Posted by: gwodds | January 20, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

The publicity for the inauguration crowds obviously showed that the city was aware of the potential of a tremendous number of people, but unfortunately fell quite short of showing that they were able to handle it. In fact, if not for the help of helpful ticket holders who were trying to make sure others got in to, and an extremely helpful sanitation truck driver who gave us hope that we were actually near the gate, I probably would have given up.

We arrived with no problems via bus at the purple line. There was a police barricade and they directed us to the end of the line- everyone was in great spirits and very cooperative and cordial. The line continued to grow and suddenly there was no police presence or anyone that knew anything! At 9:00 the line had not moved more than 10 feet from the time we lined up at 6:00 AM. At one point there was a problem with a huge crowd of people line jumping. The one police assigned to monitoring a tunnel with at least 2500 people could do nothing.

It was total chaos, pushing and mobbing the gates- people in line since 4:00 AM following rules did not get in. In fact the people who got in were the ones who pushed and just tried desparately to make it. Inside, plenty of room.

Maybe the person who said stop complaining people did not spend 5 hours in line hearing peoples' stories of how important this moment was to them and how so many go here from all parts of this country and the world. The dad who did everything to get a ticket and surprise his son for Christmas with a purple ticket and the older people who struggled to stand in line and walk great distances only to be turned away. What was the point of giving out tickets at all if there was no plan to facilitate safe entrance to the gates.

Posted by: dbayer1969 | January 20, 2009 10:53 PM | Report abuse

Though an employee of the legislative branch, Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer is suffering from the same rectal-cranial inversion syndrome that the previous executive branch suffered from. A few thousand "discombobulated"? I think a proctologist should examine his head. His arrogance and contempt are surely signs that a strong laxative needs to be administered.

Posted by: stivd | January 20, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

What should have been a memorable day having a chance to participate in a truly historic event by many people who had tickets to the purple gate really did turn out to be memorable. These people have now been classified as "discombobulated" by someone who obviously has no empathy for the hardships, physically, financially and emotionally, that these people endured because the truth of the matter seems to have escaped Mr. Gainer. The fact is that the purple gate simply was not open thereby denying entrance to people with tickets which clearly were intended to allow admission through the purple gate.

It is also obvious to all those who were denied admission that there was ample room for people to fill the empty space, bulky people in coats or not.

It's unfortunate that Mr. Gainer was not one of the people left out in the cold holding his purple ticket so he could personally experience being discombobulated.

Regardless of the number of people, the two months since the election of Barack Obama should have been plenty of time to work out the logistics of handling any size crowd. There should have been an adequate number of officials at all entrance gates to ensure the efficient entry of the ticket holders. Someone really dropped the ball and should be held accountable.

Finally, Mr. Gainer should be ashamed of himself. He should make a public apology for his insensitive and reprehensible comments. Someone in his position should know better. He should have more respect for the people who pay his salary.

Posted by: gtheb1952 | January 20, 2009 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Wow - my heart goes out to those who got tickets and still couldn't get in. I tried to get tickets from my congressman - while I'm not sure these are related tickets, this will make me think twice about getting tickets if I'm interested in inaugural viewing in the future.
The disorganization wasn't limited to the ticket lines - I almost circled back to the Mall because of the confusion with the L'Efant metro closing. And we were just trying to walk back to Arlington! Kudos to the crowd - they took it well enough in stride that a dangerous situation did not occur.

Posted by: MKoehl | January 20, 2009 11:52 PM | Report abuse

I would just like to echo what everyone else who was subjected to the "purple tunnel of doom" has said.

Discombobulated is neither the word or the sentiment that should be attached to those I met in this line. We were optimistic until the very end. As people passed us from the front telling us (after having waited between 3-5 hours) that they had closed the gate and no one was there the great majority of us remained in line. I heard people around me saying "I have hope that we will still get in." There is only one word that sums up the experience of those of us who were led to believe that we were going to have the chance to experience history and then were turned away with no explanation.

Disappointed.

Also, we have a compelling reason to continue to object to the "organization" of the inauguration. Being stuck in a tunnel with 10's of thousands of people with no access to water or bathrooms or food or fresh air for that matter, and no one telling us what was going on was TREMENDOUSLY unsafe. If people were not as excited and overjoyed about the prospects of making it inside the situation could have been deadly and there were NO police whatsoever.

I encourage anyone who was in the purple (blue or silver) line to contact their congressman and if they know how--the media.

Also, to those of you in the purple line, thanks for being such great sports and staying so positive through the whole thing.

Posted by: caligwgirl | January 20, 2009 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Thank goodness to read the truth after watching the inaugural address through the spin of the major networks. I live in Alexandria, but was so terrified of being stuck on the metro for this historic event, I stayed with my friend in Bethesda, MD. My 5-year-old and I watched on t.v., and then, heading home, got off at Gallery Place hoping to see the parade, around 2:45 p.m.

I was eventually engraged and in tears, and at one point screamed, "I want my old Washington back!!!" after standing at a checkpoint they refused to let any more people through, and then uselessly walking along blocks of barricaded streets, empty except for a few citizens like myself, and chock full of brazen, and in that moment, seemingly obscenely-labeled, FBI and police cars. My daughter was in tears, shrieking at the top of her lungs, because in my madness of waving my arms about in complete frustration I knocked her hot chocolate to the ground. I bought her another one, and then was trying to carry her but it was spilling all over her face and jacket, and I just started crying and no one else seemed as enraged or as upset as we were.

May I note even my 5-year-old daughter affixed stamps to envelopes for Obama, and we both campaigned vigorously door to door for him.

My god, there were more security people, it looked like on t.v., at some places on the parade route, than there were VIEWERS!

This inauguration was the final indictment of the overwhelming paranoia of the Bush administration that prevailed over the last 8 years, destroying the trust and faith that the overwhelming majority of people are NOT TERRORISTS, but simply genuine, hopeful, citizens of the world.

This inauguration was a mini-Katrina for the thousands who had such high hopes, and were so rudely disappointed. I know Obama would not have meant this, and if we re-elect him in 4 years, I expect by the next inauguration, he will remedy it.

Posted by: DreamsAmelia | January 21, 2009 12:36 AM | Report abuse

Based on the WaPost's satellite image of the mall at 11:19am, there was plenty of space on the Capitol lawn for all of the ticket holders denied entry. The Capitol Police's failure to manage the crowd--not bulky winter coats--is why people were turned away...

Posted by: datasam400 | January 21, 2009 1:01 AM | Report abuse

Blue Gate chaos. I came from Las Vegas, NV with a friend that joined me from New Mexico. We were thrilled to have Blue Gate tickets. We walked the length of the mall where there was still plenty of space in front of Jumbo Trons at 6:30 am. Despite nobody in charge seeming to know how to get places and no directional signage, we made it to the Blue Gates about 7:30 am. 4 hours later at 11:30 pm we gave up, but the mall was already shut down so we didn't even see 5 seconds of the ceremony. Crowd lines were chaotic; you were crushed in; very little movement; no bathrooms; no police; no explanation. It was a bit humiliating. DC folks were very nice to us this trip but the Sgt at Arms explanation is beyond ridiculous; an apology would have been nice. Surely they can run a more efficient event. We felt especially bad for those with small children. Anyway, I was thrilled to be part of history even if I didn't see it!

Posted by: bartpat1 | January 21, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse

I was also part of the "purple tunnel of doom." We got there at 6:50am and got in line (which was just about at the complete other end of the tunnel, right near the daylight). We finally made it out of the tunnel at around 11am. I did not see a single police officer or any other official during the ENTIRE time in the tunnel. Emergency vehicles drove past very quickly sometimes (not to help us - as a thoroughfare). We had no idea what was going on outside and cell reception was not good in the tunnel.

When we got outside the tunnel, people were coming back towards us and saying the purple gate was closed. We decided to hop out of line and see if we could find another entrance. At this point, at 11am, the line in the tunnel stretched AS FAR BACK AS WE COULD SEE. Getting out of line turned out to be a good move, as we walked a couple of blocks and somehow ended up right in front of the purple gate. There was a giant mob outside it, which we joined. After about 30 minutes of the mob, we somehow managed to be lucky enough to get in - at 11:50. We ran as fast as we could after security to get there as Biden was taking the oath. All those people in the purple line when we got out (which was as far as we could see when standing on a raised platform) had no way of getting in. Oh, and there was plenty of room inside once we got through security.

Why didn't they rope off the line? Have any sort of information? Start letting people through the gates earlier? Have any police officers anywhere near the line or entrance?

Posted by: julied1 | January 21, 2009 1:48 AM | Report abuse

My kids had the Silver tickets; I had a Purple. I spent 5 hours underground in that dangerous tunnel while they waited 45 minutes, entered, and found many Silver holders were moving over the downed fences and into the Purple and Blue areas. All those folks "crowding" there - only a few belonged. Perhaps there were not too many tickets....

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

First, the Sgt is a jerk. What an arrogant comment.

Secondly, look at the aerial photo of the purple gate. That is a mass of humanity, far more than 4-5K.

Posted by: nothankspurpleticket | January 21, 2009 2:52 AM | Report abuse

I was at 1st & C around 8AM, and it was one of the scariest crowd situations I've ever been in. No one upfront could go because of the gates, and people kept piling in. You couldn't move forward or backward. It was terrifying. I think people really deserve a public apology. I was very concerned for my safety.

Posted by: cralen | January 21, 2009 4:47 AM | Report abuse

We are very lucky no one got trampled or injured in the mob that was the purple ticket line, that people didn't go from mad to pushing screaming fighting mad. I to got there at 6:45 am, and I estimate I was about 5,000 people back in line at the start. The way the crowd filled in after me, I think there could have been anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 people behind me in line at 10:30 when we came into the light. So of course the totally uncontrolled surge to the front of the purple gate when we got out was scary -- we're talking one to two football stadiums full of people! Can you imagine a Redskins game where they tried to put a stadium worth of people through one gate, then closed the gate early on and didn't let anyone through, didn't tell anyone anything, had all crowd control leave the scene, and just let it become obvious as the game was starting that no one still in line would be able to get in? What do you think would happen? All of the heartsick and disappointed Obama fans in the crowd with me, I'm proud of your self-restraint and care for the others around you in that potentially dangerous situation. Imauguration planners, as we were calling en masse in the tunnel to people trying to cut in line -boo! shame on you! Feel bad about what you are doing!

Posted by: swingjan | January 21, 2009 5:06 AM | Report abuse

I was at silver gate since about 6:30 - thankfully got in about 10 minutes before Biden's swearing in. We were held there for hours packed in like sardines with no security personnel in sight; at the end of the line were about 3 police officers, who just sat there as people in the crowd (who, to their great credit, were immeasurably civil in what otherwise would have been a very dangerous situation) begged for the slightest explanation as to what was going on. When we finally got through, the security checks at the mall were EMPTY - the inspection personnel looked bored. My father politely communicated to an officer everyone's views about the lack of information and the unsafe situation, to which he was told, "your bad for coming out here" (this is a good time to remind everyone that we had tickets, were invited, and had arrived there early as advised). I could go on.

As many readers rightly point out above, it is an absolute miracle that no one was seriously injured or killed. I am an attorney for a municipality in New York, and had I seen what was taking place in DC occurring in that jurisdiction, I would have been making phone calls ASAP in fear of countless lawsuits.

I think a letter to the mayor of DC should be circulated and signed by everyone who went through this. We were all infinitely civil and gave the police officers the benefit of every doubt, being aware of the tremendous outpouring of people to such a historic event. This, however, was met only with rudeness and, more importantly, total disinterest to the safety of those whose only offense was to get tickets in advance, plan ahead, and congregate as they were invited to do. I can't speak to the entire DC police force, but the officers we encountered did not seem to realize that they are public servants. Perhaps they should view us as members of that public which they are duty bound to serve, rather than personal inconveniences.

Posted by: rps931 | January 21, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

I am writing to add my voice to the chorus. These postings will serve as evidence of the events. We arrived at 7 am in the Blue Section. We watched the Orange Section be screened - slowly but effectively - whereas the Blue Section folks just tried to find the line. Accidents were prevented because of the good-will of the people- not by any effort by officials - we were packed like sardines - small children hidden by the crush of bodies towering above them - a couple from Alaska shared my space in ways EVEN my husband hasn't - a man from India (now living in Boise) was crushed behind me - a wonderful native Washingtonian in a great green woolen cap - did his best to keep up our spirits. There was NO direction. We were within 100 feet from the first checkpoint after four and a half hours in the crush when we saw a sea of people coming from another direction - my husband and I scoped out the Mall the day before - walked the route - found our entry points - and stood on the grass in the Blue section to learn our way around - once we saw that second line it was clear all those people would never fit in the area reserved for us. There were no bathrooms - we had folks in wheelchairs and on walkers - we were freezing cold. AT NO POINT DID ANYONE GIVE US ANY DIRECTION. My husband left the line at one point and walked across a prohibited area - to the shouts of some in the crowd - and learned there was a malfunction of the screening machines. At 11:30 am we left our area by squeezing through a sea of people and we walked up to the Orange area. We knew there was nothing separating the two sections - and there were no lines - but they would not let us go through the empty screening machines. Finally, we gave up - and decided to get on the Metro and head back into downtown before the crush began. By the way, METRO was amazing!! On the way down we had huge crowds - crushed cars - but wonderful personnel that kept us informed, calm and happy about the day with Obama chants and information and COMPETENCE!! I think all of us with Blue, Purple and Silver tickets should be issued Orange tickets for Obama's second inaugural. IT WAS STILL AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE - AND THE PEOPLE WERE TERRIFIC - MADE ME PROUD!!

Posted by: Muzzie3 | January 21, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Apparently, Sgt. Gainor's ability to estimate crowds is as poor as his preparation for this event.

I spoke to numerous people yesterday and today who had purple and blue tickets and never made it in. In fact, I couldn't find anyone in those categories who actually did make it.

I'm really sorry for all those folks who got up before dawn to be in line as they were told. I now consider myself lucky not to have had tickets; we just walked over to the Mall at 9 am, past mile-long lines waiting to be let into the silver gates, and got a spot on the Mall before 10 am.

Posted by: cpwdc | January 21, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

My granddaughter and I were in the blue ticket line at 8:30 am. The line did not move. We were told there was equipment failure. There were approximately 5000 people in the same line. Are we expected to believe that a bulky coat would take up space for 5000 people. I don't understand why ticket holders were not permitted to enter. What is the purpose of having a ticket. There seemed to be space in other ticket holder areas. This situation was unacceptable. Very poor management and very rude people guarding the gates. This was supposed to be a joyous event but it turned out to be a nightmare. We could not see or hear a thing. There were no screens nearby. Very, very poor planning. I don't care how many people you say were happy and you should not either. You should care about the people who were disappointed because of your poor planning decisions and ugly attitude.

Posted by: jcheezum | January 21, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

It is a farce for anyone to congratulate themselves for organizing this free for all. Security was tight - inside the fences. In 6 hours of standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands I saw only one police officer who was yelling at people to let him through. There was no crowd control, no information, and no security. The ONLY reason there were no injuries is because of a good natured crowd and a lot of luck. I like thousands around me was shut out without any chance to make our way to another place to watch the event. God Help Us All if this is "ready for game day" because I shudder to think what would happen in an unscheduled crowd.

Posted by: jweiford | January 21, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

The beauty of the whole situation is the realization that the event and the Obama message is larger than us as individuals. The fact that people were not trampled or killed in this debacle was amazing. At a concert or sporting event, there would have been deaths. However the peaceful nature and overall happiness of the crowd here speaks volumes about our country. We came from Athens Ohio and had the "coveted Purple tickets" and drove home in absolute disbelief over what we had just experienced.

Posted by: bagel_street_deli | January 21, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

We were also purple ticket holders. We arrived at 6am, and were directed by the police down into the "tunnel of doom". We stayed there for well over 4 hours. With 10's of thousands of people. Bulky coats?? give me a break. There were WAY too many purple tickets handed out. We traveled all the way from California for this event, and were shocked to see the way DC was so totally unprepared for this event. Do they have any idea what could result from shoving 10's of thousands of people into an underground tunnel with no police, EMT's, or porta potties, and no way out besides the 2 ends? It was one scary time, and I can tell the Sargeant at arms or whatever their title is there were a HELL of alot of people that were not let in, not 1000 because of bulky coats. Give me a break. I still have not even heard the speech. I never want to go to DC again.

Posted by: mchoco | January 21, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

This is a complete falsehood. There were 5,00 people in line when Obama was inaugurated at 12:00. I would estimate 75% of the line had already left.

There were at least 50,000 people in the 2nd st tunnel. None of them made it in. There were at least that many outside on the steet, most of them did not make it in (my friends were a block from the gate at 7:00am and did not make it in). And this was just the one section (purple).

The size of the ticketed section did not change from previous inaugurations, so they should have easily estimed what was required in terms of tickets and security.

My brother was a volunteer at the Capitol and could see the purple section from his seat which he said was half empty during the inuaguration.

The real problem is there was no crowd control, there was not one cop in sight and the ones that did pass by had little to no information. The entire organization of the ticketed sections was a failure and it's time for the Sargent at Arms and the Capitol Police cheif to own up to their mistakes.

Posted by: Evan_DC | January 21, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"Quit your complaining people. God bless the Sergeant at Arms.

Posted by: popopo "

Obviously you got in, or you did not care to get in.

It was a mob scene out there. There could have been MASSIVE loss of Life due to the pushing crowds that thronged the streets and the gates. Ambulances could not get through to people stuck in the crowds who needed urgent medical care. It was awful.

I had traded in my silver tickets for the "better" purple tickets. What a joke. There was no crowd control, no police presence, no correct information, no signs. The only thing there was: locked gates, with no one in attendance to tell us to go somewhere else. I tried to leave at 11:30, knowing full well that I was not going to get in. I was 20 feet from a locked gate. I could not get out. Thank god the crowd stayed orderly for the most part.

never again.

Posted by: kashabear | January 21, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

We too had blue tickets. To anyone that wasn't there you just can't imagine the incompetence and complete lack of safety in this situation. We were jammed together thousands of us for hours so tightly that I couldn't breathe or move. Imagine the elderly or the young in this situation. I agree that the officials need to apologize for not only the fact that thousands and thousands of people did not get in, but that they jeapordized so many people's lives. What others echoed is that they truly lucked out that the crowd handled it so well and was good natured given the historic event. I eventually did get in only to see PLENTY of room in the blue section. My heart is broken not for myself, but I can not get out of my mind the many elderly african american women clutching their blue tickets that never got in because they could not withstand the physical endurance of standing in a sea of people crushing each other for 3 or 4 hours to get in, because that is what it took to get in. There was NO ONE monitoring these lines or announcing anything. Whoever is in charge needs to apologize. I have a lasting image from that line of my brother and I helping and elderly african american woman over a barricade to get her out of line, because she couldn't bear the crush of people. Tragic!

Posted by: leahj1 | January 21, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Quotation: But Gainer tried to put the problems in perspective: “Four to 5,000 people were discombobulated. There was another 236,000 who were very happy with the service."

No way. I was lucky enough to get in, but I am not "happy with the service." There were no authority figures on site. No communication. No safety measures. The crowd was too dense to be safe. No indication of what we should do. The purple gate never opened. The Yellow gate was insufficient for us. Those of us who did get in, got in late--and many thousands of people never got in at all. They could not see the inauguration. They could not hear it.

Gainer will never find "236,000 who were very happy with the service." Far from it.

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

"How were those crowds in the checkpoint area supposed to fit into the remaining room in the standing areas?
http://www.geoeye.com/CorpSite/gallery/detail.aspx?iid=220&gid=1"

The area where I was standing and the area where I SHOULD have been standing are not even visible in this satellite picture. I know the landmarks of where the PURPLE standing area is located, and you cannot see it here. The WAPO satellite shows exactly how empty both the purple, blue and silver sections were. there is NO EXCUSE for what happened. What a complete failure this day was for thousands of us who had tickets and started out plenty early enough to get through security. it is a day I will remember always, but not in the way I thought!

Posted by: kashabear | January 21, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

The true stories of what happened yesterday are to be found in the comments left by those who were there and denied access. What you cannot know unless you were there or read these comments is that the areas where people were congregating to get in were extremely, potentially, UNSAFE. If anything had happened in these crowds there was NO ONE around to help us. There were no officers, no bull horns, nothing. Riots and stampedes were seconds away at any given moment. When I was stuck at 1st and D Streets (NW), several people needed to be evacuated due to medical emergencies and the ambulance could NOT get through the crowds of people packed into the street. Physically we could not move far enough in ANY direction in order to make room for the ambulance. There were no police officers present with bull horns to order people to move so that the ambulance could get through. People, ordinary people, were shouting, asking people to move to out of the way. No crowd control, no lines, no cordoned-off areas so people could know where to go, no signs. There were many times I was aware that injury and possible death were a breath away if the crowd got out of hand, we were packed in tighter than sardines with no place to move to.

We have to thank the PEOPLE for maintaining calm, not the police force, that were for the most part not present when it came to crowd control. Not having access to our ticketed areas is only part of the issue that needs to be investigated.

Posted by: kashabear | January 21, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

I posted this under another story related to the job the cops did-it applies here, too, so here's my post. I didn't have tickets, so went through a 'regular' entrance, south of the main mall area.
The way they handled the massive crowds leaving the mall was deplorable. There was little police presence and the ones I did see had no information on subway closings. Federal Triangle was supposed to be open but it was closed and hundreds waited for it to open. The cops there had no information on what other one to try and gave out misinformation so people went from one closed station to another. These were not stations listed previously as ones which would be closed. I used Navy Yard metro-no cops there at all. no crowd control. I lived in NYC for 10 years, and have been to many large crowd events and I can say that the DC police force did a lousy job. They had no information to direct people. Everyone knew it would be a chore to get out after the ceremony, but when metro stations close down with no notice, and the cops have no info. on which one to go to, and they're not even in or around the stations helping to control the crowds, that's just inexcusable.
Oh, and security? NONE walking onto the mall. We just walked right in-no bag check, no person search, NOTHING. Anyone could have walked on that mall with explosives strapped to them and nothing would have stopped it. There were no incidents thank God, but it was due to luck, not because of the "security" measures. who were they kidding? Hundreds of us just streamed in through the south entrances near 14th st at about 5am-nobody there except for National Guard people gathering for the day's work. Someone needs to do a story on the facade the cops are trying to pull off. The mall was an open target for anyone who wanted to bring guns or explosives. The cops did nothing to ensure that people attending were going to be safe. I was there. I saw what was going on. They're lying if they say they did their job. Someone really needs to look into this-for all the PR they put out about security, it was all bluster. They couldn't handle it.

Posted by: kasalexis | January 21, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Fire the Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer.

Posted by: tattootom | January 22, 2009 5:39 AM | Report abuse

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

Posted by: Eurythmy2 | January 22, 2009 6:18 AM | Report abuse

We had blue tickets. We waited 3 hours in a so-called line for over 3 hours. The line moved 1/2 of a block in 3 hours. There were at least 10,000 people in the Blue Ticket line that did not get in. There were no policeman. There were no event workers managing the line. There were way too few metal detectors for the number of tickets. The gates opened late. This was mismanaged or rather, not managed at all. The person in charge should be fired. No one did the math to calculate how to move the number of blue tickets into the area in the alloted time. What a waste. Typical government failure. No wonder Katrina was a failure. Our government does not know how to do a simple thing like get ticketed people into the event that they flew thousands of miles to attend. The real number of Blue Ticket holders who did not get in was 10,000 to 15,000. I know. I was there in the crowd.

Posted by: echristiansen | January 22, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I waited at 1st and D from 7:30 to 10:45 before the line moved forward, then to wait at Louisiana where I could watch some people slowly being allowed in through the purple gate set up at the exit sign until 12:05 when they stopped letting people in. At no time was there ever a person from security telling anyone what to do, where to go, or the reason for the delay. The lack of any information was extremely dangerous as people slowly became frustrated and the density of the crowd increased. There were scores of police and officials inside the fence but not one came out or used a bull horn or attempted to tell anyone what what was happening. It was not lack of sufficient manpower, it was sheer incompetence in the planning and in the use of the people they had.

Posted by: mchurchill5 | January 25, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

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