Purple. That was the color of our reserved standing area tickets for the Inauguration Ceremony. Despite reading all the official instructions in the newspaper and in our ticket packets, the process of getting us onto the inaugural grounds fell into chaos. My little group made it inside while Joe Biden was being sworn in and we were able to watch Barack Obama’s swearing-in and speech as well as watch George Bush’s departure. In between, there were very good and very bad moments to be had. The good moments all came courtesy of our fellow attendees waiting in line with us – the purple purgatory.
We left our building just up the street from the U.S. Capitol at 6:15 am and strolled up to our checkpoint at 6:30 am. At that point, the volunteers and police gave extremely bad and wrong advice. They directed all attendees to the 3rd Street NW highway underpass. Unfortunately, they did not understand that several categories of passes could only gain entry on the north side of the Capitol – purple, for example.
Our little gang went under the highway with tens of thousands of others only to find out on the other side that we had to return back to the north side. On our return, we found that nothing had changed. The police had not opened the checkpoints as promised so we could get to the security area and we waited a while at 3rd and D Streets NW. And the crowd started to get ugly at this location.
Another volunteer finally recommended that we go to 1st and D Streets NW as a better location to wait. We decided to agree and ended up in a crowd of people who shared the purple color of our passes. We stayed there so long that one man led the whole crowd in the Star Spangled Banner, a moment that lifted everyone’s spirits and ended up on NPR. But we remained stuck and did not get access to the security area until around 8:30 am.
There were no volunteers, regular police, US Capitol police or anyone in any official capacity outside the security area. It was locked and no information was shared with any of the many thousands or purples. Decisions by attendees were reached based on rumors. At one point, a street lamp cracked at its base and started leaning. It was at great risk of breaking and falling on the crowd but there was no one in an official capacity anywhere to communicate the dangerous situation. And 911 on my cell phone did not work.
Finally the crowd became an amoebic mob and the security gates opened hours after scheduled. Still no information. Several people had medical issues in line but getting the attention of the officials across the fence was difficult and they were slow to respond. The crowd begged for any official person or crowd control on the street side of the fence but were refused.
As the ceremony started, the crowd continued to push forward more and more aggressively creating a potentially dangerous situation with a serious danger of someone being crushed or trampled arising. But we made it into the grounds intact while now Vice President Biden was taking his oath. Many thousands were unnecessarily left standing outside.
All this being said, the day could have been a fiasco but was not once we heard our new President address our nation. This is a big shout out to our fellow attendees in purple purgatory. We were there and boy will we have a tale to tell when we get older.