How Did D.C. Fare as Inauguration Host?
The Post editorial board thought the city proved equal to an unparalleled challenge. Do you agree? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
Editorial: Millions on the Mall
EVERYWHERE you looked, there were people: thousands and thousands of people. A crowd that some estimates put at nearly 1.8 million flooded the Mall and its surrounding streets to join in the inauguration of Barack Obama. Yet the unprecedented numbers did not overwhelm this federal city. Smart planning, cooperation between local and federal officials, and a public in extraordinarily good spirits and on its very best behavior made for a splendid day.
We don't mean to underestimate the difficulties and the disappointments that many visitors and residents encountered. Too many people with hard-won tickets to the swearing-in never made it to their places because of inexcusable problems at checkpoints. A woman narrowly escaped serious injury when she fell onto the Metro tracks at the Gallery Place-Chinatown Station. The 14th Street bridge was shut down unexpectedly, dozens were treated for hypothermia, and some people were injured when they became trapped between security barriers and gridlocked crowds. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who heartened his many admirers with his jaunty appearance at the inauguration ceremony, alarmingly fell ill at the lunch soon after.
But considering the size of yesterday's events and those of the days leading up to it, most things went remarkably well. Moreover, it seemed that for most participants, no glitch could dim the sheer exhilaration of the day. "I am so pumped. I am so pumped I can't even explain it," volunteer Anna M. Griffin said in a show of emotion that captured the mood of the city. The public's good cheer and patience helped to make the day special and largely trouble-free, even as clouds obscured the sun and confusion sometimes reigned. Thousands who wouldn't budge from the parade route, despite the presidential motorcade's late start, were rewarded when the new president and first lady exited their car to walk up part of Pennsylvania Avenue. Riders on the jampacked Metro system described an atmosphere in which people were eager to strike up conversations and offer help. Even those who couldn't get close to the steps of the Capitol felt themselves to be a part of the grandeur. One D.C. government worker told of watching the ceremony on television with colleagues in the Wilson Building, "clapping, cheering and laughing."
Officials involved in the planning were properly wary about declaring success until all the events had concluded, with every spectator safely returned home. They also want to review what worked and what didn't. Mr. Obama was right, though, to hail the thousands of military personnel, volunteers and police officers, as well as D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and others, who worked so hard to shape this unique event. Mention must be made of the good coordination among D.C., Virginia and Maryland officials and the wisdom of many of their transportation decisions. And special credit must go to Metro, which, in shattering its ridership records, proved once again that, no matter how long its lines or crowded its trains, it is invaluable to the life of the Washington region.
| January 21, 2009; 10:31 AM ET
Categories: Inauguration, Inauguration
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