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Lillian Allen could be one in a million or one in two million or even four million. A record number of people are expected to pour into Washington for the inauguration, and that prospect has its ups and downs for the host city. NPR's Libby Lewis reports.
LIBBY LEWIS: Four thousand people have asked Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey for a ticket to the inauguration. He has exactly 198 to give out. So this week, his chief of staff, Bob Decheine, sent a letter to each of those 4,000 constituents. Decheine wrote, let us know if you still want tickets after you read this letter. Then he ticks off nine inauguration facts. The first three aren't so bad. You have to pick up tickets in person, they're probably limited to two, and you don't need a ticket to come to the inauguration. Then comes the reality check.
Mr. BOB DECHEINE (Chief of Staff for Representative Steve Rothman): Number four, it is likely to be very cold and wet.
LEWIS: That's true. The normal temperature in January is 37 degrees.
Mr. DAN TANGHERLINI (City Administrator, Washington D.C.): The chief of police and I were trading scenarios.
LEWIS: That's Dan Tangherlini, city administrator for the District of Columbia.
Mr. TANGHERLINI: My worst-case scenario was about 31 degrees and raining, which would generate ice, which would be a nightmare. And she was joking that her worst-case scenario is 60 degrees and sunny because that would have, you know, 10 million people here.
LEWIS: Tangherlini says his boss, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, is committed to making this inauguration a success. They're just still figuring out what all that means, from managing thousands of charter buses to planning for medical care. And that raises the next points on Bob Decheine's reality checklist.
Mr. DECHEINE: Number five, attendees will be outdoors for a very long time. Number six, there will be very limited restroom facilities.
LEWIS: The prospect of record numbers of people flooding the district has D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton happy but nervous.
Representative ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (Democrat, District of Columbia): What I think you got to do is throw away the old inauguration book, write yourself a new one for this inauguration, because that's what it's going to take.
LEWIS: She'd like to see a ban on cars coming into the city altogether during the inauguration. And she'd like to see the city open up lots of sites around D.C. to handle older people and others who she believes won't have the stamina to stay on Pennsylvania Avenue or the National Mall.
Mr. CHARLES RAMSEY (Philadelphia Police Commissioner): This will go just fine.
LEWIS: That's Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. He handled two inaugurals as Washington, D.C.'s police chief.
Mr. RAMSEY: I imagine this is going to probably be record crowds. But the people that are in charge of the planning know what they're doing. People should let them do their jobs.
LEWIS: Ramsey says nobody's better at handling mass events than Washington, D.C. Even so, there are D.C. residents who will celebrate Obama's inauguration but not on the National Mall.
Ms. JOYCE LEWIS POSTEIN(ph): To be honest, it scares me.
LEWIS: Joyce Lewis Postein's eyes grow wide thinking of millions of people in one place.
Ms. POSTEIN: I'll sit in front of the television and watch it all day long. I'm proud to know that we have a reason for so many people to be here in D.C. But I'm scared to be out there.
LEWIS: It's as though she'd already read Bob Decheine's reality checklist.
Mr. DECHEINE: Number seven, more than 90 percent of the tickets are for standing areas only. Number eight, security delays will be unprecedented. Number nine, expect long walks.
LEWIS: Decheine says his boss isn't throwing a wet blanket on this historic event by sending this cautionary letter. He says Congressman Steve Rothman just wants to make sure the people who do come have their eyes wide open. As for himself, Decheine is going to watch the inauguration on TV from his office on Capitol Hill. Libby Lewis, NPR News, Washington.
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