The inauguration of President Obama was truly a joyous occasion. His speech was brilliant; the images were breathtaking. However, for tens of thousands of blue, silver, and purple ticket-holders, the inauguration went bafflingly and heartbreakingly unseen and unheard.
My wife and I were among this number. We had blue "South Standing" tickets, and arrived at the swamped area approaching the sole entrance to the blue section at 9:30 a.m. We couldn't get within 100 yards of the security checkpoint. An unmanaged crowd of thousands pressed toward the gate from all sides. Nobody knew what was going on; there were no signs, announcements, or crowd control. People around us had been waiting since dawn with no clue how to navigate the swelling, unchecked, unmoving crowd.
By 11:15-- fifteen minutes before the gates were scheduled to shut--we had gotten only slightly closer to the gate. The sinking, previously unthinkable notion that we would be shut out had become starkly real. We were still about a football field away. Children were crying and adults were shouting. Many had traveled from Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia...
My wife and I managed to escape the mob and use a connection to get into the Rayburn House Office Building where we saw the ceremony on a television into a congressional subcommittee office. Thousands of others were not so fortunate.
Someone ought to look into this.
It was no secret as to how many blue, silver, and purple tickets had been printed. Why the security gates were unable to process the ticket-holders is a mystery. Why there was no direction or organization or crowd control from the Capitol Police is upsetting. Already message boards on the Washington Post are filling up with accounts of shattered, spurned citizens.
One epitomizing comment reads:
"My mother and I came from Oregon to be a part of this historic event. I worked for the Obama campaign and continue to be a part of community organizing in Oregon. We were blue ticket holders arriving as others had at 6:00am. We weren't let into the Inauguration despite having our blue tickets in hand, because of the inept and non-existent actions of the Capitol Police. Many of us pleaded the only officer near us to bring more police and help with crowd management. We waited in a line that didn't move for hours... It was chaos. It was awful. With By 1130am when we were still anywhere near the only security checkpoint the crowd became really ugly and started crushing people ahead of them. The police did nothing. We traveled over 2000 miles - to be here in DC. We weren't allowed to see the Inauguration!"
The rejection of thousands of ticket-holders--many of whom had traveled across the country for a one-time shot opportunity to witness history-- is an unfortunate blot on an otherwise glorious day for America and the world.