Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration: City Seemed Unprepared for Elderly, Disabled, and Everyone Else

The Capitol at 6:00 a.m.

In a good spot at 8:00 a.m.

My trip to the Mall today was challenging but worth it -- and I felt sorry for all the people who had tickets but couldn't get in. Considering the city had two months to plan, the lack of organization was appalling. I suspect they knew it would be chaos, and that's why they discouraged children and people with disabilities from attending. It's a strange mixed message to declare you're going to have the most open inauguration ever, while at the same time encouraging some people to stay away.

People with strollers, crutches, or wheelchairs had it the worst. Metro stations were closed unexpectedly, the police at various locations gave contradictory information. In most cases, when I got stuck in a mob with no way out, there weren't any police officers or volunteers to tell us which way we could go. Fortunately, all the people I encountered were respectful -- if they had become angry, it would have been ugly. Worse, if there had been any level of disaster, there's no doubt people would have died.

On one hand, there's never been an event like this in Washington, or in many cities anywhere. Security for the president has to be the number one priority. On the other hand, there was time to prepare, and it almost seemed like they were surprised that 1) lots of people showed up and 2) many of them (like me) arrived early.

I was on Twitter much of the day. You can read my posts at http://twitter.com/mmiller20910. But a few highlights are these quotes:
- A Chicago police officer who was unable to give me directions: "They brought us in from all over, but unfortunately they didn't give us a tour of the city."
- A Supreme Court security officer, to a woman who complained she couldn't go the direction she wanted to: "Hey, you chose to be here today. If it was my choice, i wouldn't be here."
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