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August 22, 2019

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Crowd size swells ahead of inauguration

Inauguration Day

People gather on the streets of Washington, D.C. to catch a glimpse of newly sworn-in President Barack Obama Tuesday. Launch slideshow »

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There's something floating in the crisp Washington air this morning: Change.

When I left the house yesterday, the D.C. streets were quiet. Today, however, was different. The streets were filled with people who, like me, were headed downtown to witness history and welcome their new president.

Everywhere I looked, people were walking, all headed in the same direction.

I set a brisk pace and made the two-mile walk to Capitol Hill in decent time. I navigated the busy sidewalks and and passed dozens of enterprising souvenir salesmen on my way.

By the time I got to the barrier fence protecting the Capitol, however, the streets and sidewalks had been transformed into one massive human parking lot.

Inauguration tickets are grouped by color, each representing a different section of the Capitol. My ticket is purple.

Each color has a designated entry gate. Mine is on the north side of the National Mall, at the corner of First Street and Constitution Avenue.

The directions were clear enough but unfortunately that intersection is inside the barrier, meaning me and the thousands of other purple ticketholders have no idea where to go.

There are no signs in place to help people find their appropriate entry gates and there's no crowd control to speak of, either. The few police officers currently in place are providing contradicting and downright awful directions. (One pair of officers spent the better part of the morning telling dozens, if not hundreds, of people to wait at the end of a blocked off street.)

I followed the mob past what everyone claimed was the yellow ticket line and soon found myself in the standstill that was rumored to be the purple line.

It wasn't a line, however; it was a giant, motionless sea of bodies.

No one is getting anywhere and no one knows where to go.

The crowd is getting antsy and people are getting nervous.

The woman standing next to me arrived at 5:30 a.m. After three hours of waiting in the same spot, she's had enough. She's leaving.

I can't help but wonder if she has the right idea. Instead of shivering in the January chill and peering through a crowd, she will watch the inauguration on TV.

If I don't make it through the gate by 11 a.m., I will follow her lead and watch Obama's swearing-in from the comfort of a D.C. pub.

Unlike the woman who was waiting alongside me this morning, however, I have yet to throw in the towel.

Like the President-elect, I still have hope.

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