Shepherding Crowds In And Out Of Capital Hundreds of thousands of people were expected on the mall Sunday for the inaugural concert. Washington, D.C., officials were anxious about the city's trains, buses and roads holding up. Things were slow going through the security checkpoints. And when the concert was over, everyone tried to leave at once.
NPR logo

Shepherding Crowds In And Out Of Capital

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/99546309/99546295" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Shepherding Crowds In And Out Of Capital

Shepherding Crowds In And Out Of Capital

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/99546309/99546295" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep with Renee Montagne. From Washington, D.C., officials yesterday was a trial run for tomorrow's presidential inauguration. Hundreds of thousands of visitors turned up at the Mall for a concert, and that placed a lot of stress on the city's trains, buses and roads. As NPR's Laura Sullivan reports, not everything went smoothly.

LAURA SULLIVAN: The day started out well. It was bright, clear, and traffic officers were in a great mood.

(SOUNDBITE OF MALL)

M: Welcome. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon! Welcome!

SULLIVAN: Traffic director Melanie Smith kept a steady stream of people moving down the street with gusto.

M: Oh, I love it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I love it. Yeah, I got to holler at these people.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen!

SULLIVAN: Smith had been at her post hollering since 7 a.m, and even at noon, people were still making good time as they passed her. But up ahead at the security checkpoint, things began to slow to a crawl. D.C. resident Chris Cutting(ph) climbed up onto a security barricade to get a better view of the long lines inching toward the checkpoint.

M: Standing up on here looking across - a lot of people, every standing spot full.

SULLIVAN: Cutting was on a scouting mission for his friends.

M: I told them last night that I'd give them a call and let them know, you know, if there was any reason to come down.

SULLIVAN: So, what's the verdict?

M: No, I don't think so. You know, the concert might be over by the time they get in.

SULLIVAN: That's exactly what happened to many people. Some waited in security lines two hours, only to be told when they got to the front that the viewing area was full. They were left with only the hill of the Washington Monument, half a mile from the stage. Bobby Hamilton(ph) and his family, from Greensboro, North Carolina, spread out a blanket under the last Jumbotron on the hill and were determined to make the best of it.

M: Better than the one at the house.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: And we'll see everything still.

SULLIVAN: It took almost seven hours for the lawns of the Mall to fill up with people. They came by train, bus, Metro, and carpool. And most people reported they had a pretty easy time of it. Then, they all tried to leave at once. At the Foggy Bottom Metro station, a thousand people piled up outside the entrance, trying to get into the station. Inside, the train platform was packed all the way to the edge.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAIN)

M: Clear the doors.

SULLIVAN: A woman tried to keep the doors of an overpacked train from closing by sticking her hand between them, drawing the ire of Metro officer Michael Jones, who had this point had been herding people for almost two hours.

M: These are not elevator doors.

SULLIVAN: As each train pulled up already full, frustrated train announcers tried to keep new passengers from trying to squeeze in.

(SOUNDBITE OF METRO)

SULLIVAN: Outside, police officers began barricading the Metro entrance to keep people out until space opened. Security officer Eric Houser(ph), with the D.C. government, tried a more friendly approach to try and get people to another station.

M: It's a beautiful day to walk five blocks to the east, folks. Five blocks to the east. And thank you for coming to D.C.

SULLIVAN: Down the street, there were a couple buses. But like the rest of downtown D.C. traffic, they weren't moving. After about 20 minutes, they opened their doors, and the passengers piled out to set off on foot. Officials say they expect a crowd several times larger on Tuesday. Laura Sullivan, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.