Nearly 2 million people stood on the National Mall yesterday to watch President Barack Obama's inauguration, but thousands of others who had tickets to attend the ceremony were turned away, told to wait, or left to languish in a tunnel as history went on without them.
An unprecedented number of people turned out to witness Obama become the first African American to take the oath of office, creating a security, traffic and logistical tangle for Washington, D.C.
Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty estimated the crowd at 1.8 million people, breaking the previous record of 1.2 million at Lyndon Johnson's inauguration in 1965.
Given the large crowds at yesterday's events, things on the whole went safely and smoothly. According to the Secret Service, not a single person was arrested on the mall.
However, several hundred to several thousand people, carrying purple tickets that would have given them standing-room access outside the Capitol building, waited for hours in a cramped tunnel with no access to latrines or emergency services.
While most of the 1.8 million people simply showed up at the mall, 240,000 others received tickets and were assigned to color-coded sections to watch the events relatively close up. Before they could enter those sections they had to first pass narrow gates and walk through metal detectors.
Ticket-holders for the blue, purple and silver sections faced long lines with little crowd control procedures and many of them were ultimately turned away, according to people on the scene.
Several hundred to several thousand people holding purple tickets waited in line for hours in a cramped tunnel at 3rd Street.
Gates for ticket holders were to officially open at 9 a.m. ET, but Andre Chevalier, 25, who was to stand in the purple section, got in line at 6:15 a.m. He says he spent the next five hours stuck underground within steps of the Capitol.
"I thought that by getting there at 6:15 it was a matter of getting great seats or OK seats. It didn't seem in the realm of possible scenarios that we would get stuck waiting in a tunnel and never see the inauguration," Chevalier said.
Chevalier said the tunnel was filled with elderly people and small children whose egress was blocked by crowds on both sides of the tunnel. He estimated there were 15,000 people in the tunnel and an additional 30,000 in line behind them.
That estimate is substantially more than the figure given by the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrence Gainer, who told the Washington Post that far fewer of the total ticket holders were unable to get in to the inauguration.
"Four to 5,000 people were discombobulated. There was another 236,000 who were very happy with the service," Gainer told the paper.
Earlier in the day, he was quoted as saying all ticket holders had been granted access.
Gainer said space was constricted by too many people showing up in bulky coats on a bitterly cold day in Washington, when temperatures were in the low teens.
"It does appear that maybe there were more tickets in purple and blue than bulky people in coats would permit," Gainer said.
Chevalier and other purple ticket holders who found solace online in a Facebook group called "Purple Tunnel of Doom" said people remained calm, despite a lack of police presence.