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"Purple Tunnel of Doom" (AP/Photo by Jacquelyn Martin)

Purple plight

Inauguration | The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies apologizes to ticket holders who were turned away at the gates

WASHINGTON-Twenty-four hours after thousands of inauguration ticket holders were shut out of President Obama's historic swearing-in ceremony, the congressional committee tasked with planning the event has apologized for the ticket fiasco.

In statement released Wednesday, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies said it "deeply regrets that some ticket holders to the ceremonies were not able to get to their ticketed sections."

The committee promised to join with U.S. Capitol Police and other inauguration partners to examine what went wrong "to provide a foundation of lessons learned to future inaugural planners."

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WORLD reported Tuesday that thousands of the 240,000 who landed the heavily sought after tickets to the inauguration were prevented from entering the Capitol grounds for the ceremony. With some ticket holders arriving as early as 4:30 a.m. for the event, many were forced to endure below-freezing temperatures for hours in lines that never moved. Despite traveling from all over the country to witness the peaceful transition of power, many gave up and fought their way out of the lines in the hopes of finding a place to watch the event on television. The ticket holders complained of a lack of organization and police presence, with the lines turning into tangled mobs of humanity as more ticket holders arrived with no place to go.

The joint committee said the logjams primarily occurred in the purple and blue ticket zones.

"Many of the problems appear to have been due to the unprecedented crowds, and a huge flow of unticketed people toward the U.S. Capitol and into the Third Street tunnel from the National Mall, after it had reached capacity very early that morning and was closed to additional unticketed entries," the statement read. "We realize how important this inauguration was to so many people and the difficulties they endured to get here, so once again we deeply apologize to those guests who were not admitted."

The saga of the purple ticket holders took a life of its own Wednesday on the internet. Those who survived hours in crowds too tightly packed to move posted photos and videos or blogged about their ordeal.

One blogger titled her post, "Cursed Purple Tickets (or, how I worked for two years to get Obama elected and then couldn't view the inauguration)."

A Facebook group has been created called "Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom," which by Wednesday evening had a growing list of more than 2,000 members. Another group, named "Sympathizers of the Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom," numbered only 69 at this writing.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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