A Frustrating Inauguration For Many
ROBERT SIEGEL: Some people yesterday did not get to witness President Obama's speech, at least not in the location their tickets suggested. Thousands of people holding Inaugural tickets were turned away. And as NPR's Laura Sullivan reports, they remain let down and angry.
LAURA SULLIVAN: The coveted color-coded tickets to the Inauguration offered a close-up view. They were fancy, delicately engraved on expensive cardstock and without any hint of what was to come for many.
(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE CHANTING "LET US IN!")
SULLIVAN: Wall-to-wall people jammed into a tunnel, a mob scene on the streets and in the end, only a distant echo of Inaugural music. At least 5,000 people with tickets and possibly thousands more were turned away from security checkpoints. Christopher Roland(ph) trekked down from New York City and spent the rest of the day wandering around Chinatown trying to find a television to see reruns of the event he missed entirely.
CHRISTOPHER ROLAND: There were no cops or anyone taking accountability for this or trying to organize groups.
SULLIVAN: The biggest problem occurred in the tunnel under the Capitol where many purple ticket holders waited for six hours in the cold without restrooms. Many of the purple tickets were for campaign volunteers and staff who paid their own way for this one little thank you from the new administration. Brent Messenger was Obama's campaign field manager in New Mexico and flew out from San Francisco. Deep in the tunnel, people sent forward on scouting missions came back with grim news.
BRENT MESSENGER: They said you wouldn't believe what it's like up there. It's chaos, there's no line. People are just cutting in. No one's controlling the line.
(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE SHOUTING)
SULLIVAN: The street outside the gate was a mob scene. The gates were shut. Even a day later, Messenger can't stop thinking about his staff and all the young volunteers.
MESSENGER: Someone who worked for me had his father and his mother who he packed out, got them up at 4:30 in the morning. There they were and - oh, his parents were so proud, you know, to watch this moment, and then he was treated like, you know, he was treated poorly and pushed around and then - I'm sure he felt a little humiliated and it's awful.
SULLIVAN: D.C. Police say, it wasn't their security checkpoint or lines. The Secret Service say they have no comment. The Capitol Police did not return phone calls. This afternoon, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies put out a statement saying they were sorry and promised to get to the bottom of what happened in time for 2012. In the meantime, almost 2,000 people have joined a Facebook page called Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom. Laura Sullivan, NPR News, Washington.