- Posted January 20, 2009 by
washington, District of Columbia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Inauguration: Your view of history
Purple Gate, disabled woman left behind
What started as a day filled with hope and anticipation for Denise Robinson was dashed today as she was left out in the cold trying to attend the Inauguration of Barack Obama. With her ticket to the purple section in hand, Robinson made the extended bus trip from Detroit Michigan and braved the cold weather and the crowds in a wheelchair so she could see the her president be inaugurated. But it wasn't to be... Sadly, after getting pushed and shoved and swallowed by a crowd of frustrated ticket purple holders, she made is within twenty feet from the gate before it slammed shut on her, leaving her heartbroken and frustrated.
She was featured on the front page of the Detroit Free Press in a January 15th article by Suzette Hackney. The article explains how she put off her hip replacement surgery until after the inauguration so she could be there. It explains how inspirational this was to her. "I've got to go" she's quoted in the article. "I know I'm not physically fit to go but I'm going to be standing there, or sitting there or leaning there because this is history. I have to be able to feel it for myself. I don't want to read about it." It appears instead of feeling the history; she felt the disappointment of being barred from the event even though she had a ticket.
The directions provided with the tickets sent people to Purple Gates at First Street and Constitution Ave. but the only gate they seemed to let people in was quite a distance away to the east. The communication and direction between officials and the public was horrible. None of the police or secret service seemed to be able to answer any questions. Ticketed people had been waiting since 5am and didn't get in the gate. For a long time we were stuck two blocks away waiting, kids were getting squished. Disabled people like Denise had to fight their way through the crowds. She spoke to my wife and I about how people crawled over her and acted like she wasn't there. There appeared to be no accommodations made for her disability and no help was to be found from officials around the event. I jokingly remarked to several of my new ‘closest' friends that it was a good thing we all were in a generally happy mood. This was really only a half joke, because it could have been an ugly scene. The cramped conditions, lack of direction and communication, generated a great deal of frustration and anger. In the end the positive spirit of the day kept the crowd calm and orderly.
She waited until the crowd dissipated; resigning herself to be happy just to see the gate closed to the event she should have been attending. She wasn't mad at the Obama administration, disappointed but not mad. She was upset at the lack of crowd control and the way she was treated in the crowds. It's heartbreaking to think how far she came and how hard is was for her and her husband to fight through the crowds and push her wheelchair just to be shunned in the end.
An official on the other side of the gate indicated that there had been too many tickets given out and that overflow from other sections may have affected how many purple ticket holders were allowed into the event. People who got tickets spent their hard earned money on travel food and lodging costs, used vacation time, and like Denise, put off surgery with an expectation that the ticket that they held would be honored.
John R. Bull
Village of Coxsackie