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The Inauguration: Preventing Infamous Injuries from 2009


Posted on Jan 21, 2013

When ticket holders with purple markings on their passes entered the Third Street Tunnel in January 2009, they thought they were on their way to see Barack Obama be sworn in as president. They were wrong.

Instead, they were stuck in the tunnel for hours. Journalists, invited guests, and excited tourists waited and waited. With no means of exiting without trampling the crowds behind, and no communication from officials, the tunnel quickly became known as the Purple Tunnel of Doom.

People stuck in the tunnel missed the Inaugural proceedings entirely. Many had spent thousands of dollars traveling to DC for the event - money they would never get back. It was an emotional situation, and a premises liability nightmare.

The tunnel fiasco occurred because a lack of security allowed the gate at the end never to open fully. It was entirely preventable.

But it wasn't prevented, which meant everyone involved was at risk of trampling. The temperatures were well below freezing. The space was so claustrophobic that victims still claim to have nightmares about the event years later.

This year, the Purple Tunnel of Doom will be closed and used only for emergency vehicles. Also in response, event planners have changed the ticketing procedures, increased staff, and changed methods for funneling in the crowds. After all, no one wants another group of people who see themselves as "survivors" of a traumatic Inaugural Day.

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