Purple Ticket-Holder Planning Ceremony Do-Over
Barack Obama got a do-over of his oath of office. Now, a campaign staff member who got shut out of Obama's original ceremony is planning another try of his own.
Gabe Cohen, 29, who spent 20 months on the campaign, is sending out notice to friends and supporters that he will lead a swearing-in listening event near the U.S. Capitol tomorrow at noon.
Cohen and his mother, Judy Marks, were among the thousands of Purple ticket-holders who were denied entrance to Obama's ceremony Tuesday, after waiting for more than five hours. (Thousands of Blue ticket-holders also were shut out.)
"In the same spirit of the campaign, a couple of us got to talking and we wanted to make the best of an unfortunate situation. We'll try to do it over," said Cohen, who lives in Denver and worked as a field director and state director in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Pennsylvania.
Marks said she and her son had gotten onto Metro at the Silver Spring station at 5:15 a.m. and by 6 a.m. were following the directions provided by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies about where to line up for the Purple section. The crowd already was large, and they took their place in the line somewhere near the front of the 3rd Street tunnel.
"I'm claustrophobic, so at least I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel," Marks, who works as the associate director for the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, said today by phone.
That was the last bit of illumination provided for these ticket-holders, as the line barely budged for hours. Eventually, the line moved, but got bogged down near the gates. Thousands began chanting "Let us in!" as the minutes ticked down toward Obama's ceremony. Marks and Cohen, realizing they would not make it in, began hustling back toward Union Station when they noticed a Johnny's Half Shell restaurant, which was hosting a private party. Marks paid to get them in to watch on a big-screen television.
The duo were among the first to register with the Facebook group "Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom,", which now has more than 4,400 members.
Now, Cohen is taking matters into his own hands. He's not angry and says diplomatically: "It was unfortunate what happened, but it was a wonderful day. The bottom line is that Barack Obama is the president. I have no bad words for anybody planning the event. Overall, the day went unbelievably. I had a lot of friends who worked hard on the planning committee."
Cohen said he initially invited his mother and a half dozen friends to take part in the ceremony on the Mall. But now he's posted the announcement to the Facebook group and opened it to anyone who wants to come. He stressed that it's an unofficial event and that people should bring iPods and laptops with the speech downloaded on them. They will be as close to the Capitol as possible, though he's not sure they'll have access to the steps, so they might be on the Mall. He said to look out for a group of people with laptops.
In the email to friends, he wrote:
Like you, I was shut out of the swearing in on Tuesday, purple ticket in hand. The tunnel, the hand warmers, the bootleg bedazzled hats, the whole deal. But, even worse, after weeks of planning and anticipation my mom was locked out as well.
No fear though, in the spirit of stubborn persistence we're giving it another try this Saturday at noon. We will set up in front of the capitol (between the reflecting poll and the capitol) with an Ipod and a laptop to watch the speech, this time with the best seats in the city.
Feel free to join us with video or audio and join in the inauguration re-do. You can find the speech at:http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/inaugural-address/
This time feel free to bring backpacks, chairs, strollers, food, drinks, booze, whatever you want. I promise you will not have to wait in a line or have to go near a tunnel. Viewing will start promptly at noon.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the inaugural committee, has apologized to ticket-holders and launched an investigation into what went wrong. She also has promised to deliver special souvenir packets to those who were kept out. Carole Florman, a spokeswoman for the committee, said the packets will be different than the ones handed out to some ticket-holders before the ceremony, including a full-color picture of the ceremony by an official Senate photographer.
"It's a gesture," Marks said. "I'm sure she has been trying to be responsive to many disappointed people, but she can't bring back the day."
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