WASHINGTON-An Inauguration Day that began with high expectations was interrupted with frustration for thousands of ticket holders who had descended into the nation's capital from all over America only to be prevented for hours from entering the ceremony.
With inauguration officials using a color-coded ticket system for the series of entranceways leading to the west front of the U.S. Capitol building, those with purple-colored tickets said they were given the unlucky color.
"This is a scrum," said ticket-holder Andria Knapp of San Francisco. "You are jazzed up for change and then you get disappointed. You get a ticket and you'd think that would entitle you to get inside."
These purple ticket holders, who mostly received their passes through their congressional representatives, were denied entrance until minutes before the ceremony began. Long before a gate finally opened, many had left the grounds in anger.
But the day of Barack Obama's swearing-in began with hope hours earlier for Paul Thompson, 60, of Minneapolis. He ventured into the melee around the Capitol with no ticket early Tuesday morning but was soon rejoicing after being handed a free pass to the event.
"Miracles can happen anywhere," Thompson said.
Darian Brown of Jacksonville, Fla., also arrived ticketless but was not as lucky as Thompson. Brown, 42, was forced to break out his wallet to gain access to see the first African-American take the oath for the nation's highest office.
"One-hundred dollars," responded a bartering Hill staffer with an extra ticket who declined Brown's initial offer. "Forty bucks is a bit cheap for history."
Several minutes of haggling led to a $50 price tag-Brown said he would not suffer from buyer's remorse-even though members of Congress passed legislation making it a misdemeanor to sell inaugural tickets.
"To one day tell my grandkids that I was here will be priceless," said Brown as he pocketed his slightly lighter wallet while cradling his newly bought purple ticket.
But soon Brown and thousands of other purple ticket holders found themselves crammed in an immovable sea of people facing a gate that would not open.
The crowd swelled along with everyone's frustration level as more purple tickets holders entered the area with no release points available to provide release. The shoulder-to-shoulder crush of humanity, consisting of people from Alaska to Florida, began shouting, "Purple, Purple," and "Let us in," hoping to get the attention of the unseen gatekeepers.
Time inched closer to the start of the ceremony with no relief in sight for thousands still outside the temporary fence erected along the intersection of Louisiana Avenue and First Street.
Wearing a red stocking cap covered in Obama buttons, Jenna Bower, 24, of Rochester, N.Y., who had been waiting in the area since 6:30 a.m., said she was losing hope that she would get to see the inauguration of the nation's 44th president. Bower said she had waited for three hours just the day before to pick up the purple ticket that was proving to be worthless.
With security agents peering down from nearby roofs, the frustration level of the growing contingent of purple tickets holders continued to mount. Some climbed the barriers to shout at any one beyond, and others got on the shoulders of their friends to search the horizon for a way in. Still others gave up hope and headed to watch the ceremony on a television set at their hotel rooms or a nearby restaurant.
"Don't quit team purple," one gentleman shouted as more and more ticket holders began to push through the crowd in the opposite direction.
Rebecca Mathis, 52, of Washington, D.C., said the gate fracas was inexcusable.
"No one knows where to go," she said. "I just pray that this isn't some bad omen. Obama has got to make sure the people running this are not running his next campaign."
Finally one narrow gate opened with less than 30 minutes to go before the official start of the ceremony. Crowds pushed their way toward the opening in a desperate attempt to make it inside as one official with a bullhorn threaten to shut the gate up again if people could not enter in an orderly fashion.
As the ceremony began people frantically began climbing trees to catch a glimpse of the Capitol stage. But local police quickly ushered most down from their perches.
But for the tens of thousands who managed to get into the ceremony, most said it was worth the wait and the hassle. Paulette Barné, 63, of Los Angeles called the event insane but awesome.
"Hope was needed because people have been feeling hopeless," she said while leaving the ceremony after President Obama's speech. "Hope will lead to creativity, which will lead to prosperity on Main Street."