The Purple Tunnel of Doom.
On inauguration day this tunnel, which in actuality is the 3rd Street vehicular tunnel running under the capitol, was closed to traffic. Holders of ceremony tickets in the purple and silver sections were directed to walk through the tunnel to reach the entrance gates to their sections. It was not possible to walk across the mall due to Pennsylvania Avenue being closed for the later in the day parade.
Unfortunately, thousands of people were stuck from the entrance to the tunnel, through the tunnel and all the way to the security clearance area into the ceremony grounds. These thousands formed one huge, gargantuan crowd. These were people who held tickets to the ceremony--many of whom had worked hard for Obama's election. There were celebrities and non-celebrities in this mass--young and old--people out of the civil rights movement--people who fought for equality and justice much of their lives--people who were rejoicing--congressional aides and just plain people like us.
Sadly, due to reasons not yet explained, these people were still in the tunnel and outside of security at the time gates were closed. Some had been there since early in the morning. It was a disaster that most of us learned about only after the fact as for those of us at the ceremony there was no knowledge that this was happening.
I can not imagine the depth of disappointment and frustration that existed among these people-- lost dreams, lost memories, lost participation in a great historic moment.
So, why do I feel that but for the grace of God, we would have suffered the same end to our great journey?
- I had chosen the Grand Hyatt over the Park Hyatt (using points). After arriving in D.C. we found that the Park Hyatt was just 3 blocks from the capitol and mall. Several times I bemoaned the fact that I had made the wrong hotel choice as we ended up paying lots of taxis drivers, walking blocks and blocks and using crowded metros. The Park Hyatt was better located for us. But... the hotel sits at the beginning of THE tunnel fiasco and, had we been there, we would have set out to access our area by that route.
- The directions we were given to get to our entry gate were to "walk through the 3rd street tunnel." This was our plan as taxis were not allowed anywhere near the capitol or mall and the metros were predicted to be super busy. At the very last minute, we decided to use the metro. Using the metro was not easy. When we arrived at our exit station, we were two levels under ground. It took 40 minutes, pressed against other bodies, not moving and then walking up long, turned-off escalators before we reached fresh air. Several people collapsed and emergency medical personnel were required which added to the crowd problem. Casey was panicked and it was scary. Our mantra was "we should have walked." Which, of course, would have taken us through THE tunnel.
- Once on the metro, the exit we were to use was closed due to massive crowds. We then decided, after asking Washingtonian's for advice, to ride two more stops and then exit. But...just as the metro doors were ready to close at the first stop, we, for unknown reasons as we had nary a clue as to what we were doing, decided to get off. Had we not made that decision, we once again would have found ourselves in THE mess; although, at the time finding ourselves with a long walk ahead of us, we once again thought we had "done wrong."
So, we feel that God was watching out for us--answering our prayers for a safe and good time. Often we are unaware of answered prayer as we don't know what the alternative would have been. But this time we know and we are grateful.