January 20th, 2009
07:04 PM ET

The golden ticket

President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, are expected to attend all 10 official inaugural balls.

President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, are expected to attend all 10 official inaugural balls.

Program Note: See Gary's full report tonight at 10pm ET!

Gary Tuchman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

You saw and heard Barack Obama and Joe Biden get inaugurated. But I concentrated on seeing and hearing the lucky Americans who won the equivalent of Willie Wonka's Golden Ticket.

The tickets for the front seats to view the ceremony were highly prized and very practically priced. They were free. As I walked onto the Capitol grounds, I had a woman offer me 200 dollars for mine. I wish I had another one to give her for free. I told her sorry and found a seat in the section where I was assigned.

What immediately struck me was the number of older people. I noticed that because it was so very cold, particularly while you were sitting still. Typically, when the weather is that frigid you wouldn't see so many elderly people outside for hours at a time. But these people were not going to be denied their chance to be an eyewitness to history.

Behind me was a woman who told me she watched Martin Luther King Junior's famous "I Have a Dream" speech in person. When Barack Obama was introduced, tears started streaming from her eyes. When he finished the oath, she was overwhelmed with emotion.

The other people sitting near me reacted in different ways. Some cried, some whooped and hollered, some just kept snapping photos. The crowd was quiet at the appropriate times, and mostly offered polite applause for George Bush and Dick Cheney. I say mostly, because a distance away from me, we did hear a fairly loud chant of "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye," repeated several times when the outgoing president was shown on the jumbotron, but it only lasted a short while.

The dramatic ceremony then continued and I never once heard complaints about the cold. Getting off the Capitol grounds took me a half hour because of the crowds, and was highlighted by George and Laura Bush departing via helicopter right over our heads. Most of the people walking near me were fervent Obama supporters, but they delayed their departure to watch and respectively wave to the former President of the United States.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Gary Tuchman • Inauguration • Raw Politics
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Kelli

    I keep searching the blogs and CNN.com for a news story regarding the thousands of ticket-holders who were turned away...like me and my family. We held silver tickets, arrived early, and the gates we were told to go to for admittance were never opened. We endured very scary crushing crowds trying to get to the inauguration, ran to each gate located on our map, and were never able to gain admittance. My husband and I traveled from the Cincinnati-area with our 11-year-old son to witness history. This was a crushing blow to us. I would love for CNN to follow up on why we were denied this moment in history.

    January 20, 2009 at 9:27 pm |
  2. Robert Brewster Jr.

    Every child in America gets asked at some point in life the question: what do you wanna be when you grow up? The President is telling us that no matter the goal first, Grow up! The old saying together we stand, divided we fall.

    January 20, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  3. Rod Turner

    I am here in Washington, DC and was honored to receive from my congressman Pete Olsen ‘2 Purple Section Tickets’ for the Inauguration but after 6 & 1/2 hours of walking and waiting in the PURPLE LINE FOR ADMISSION to the TICKETED SECTION in the 3rd Street TUNNEL, WE WERE TURNED AWAY. How can the government distribute TICKETS for the event and not have enough Standing / sitting areas for those who have Tickets. FYI: The tickets took 3 hours of standing in line on Monday, Jan 19, 2009, just to be turned away. Who ever organized the check-in for those with TICKETS, forgot to include us in the security check-in system.

    January 20, 2009 at 7:26 pm |
  4. Pati Mc

    Hi Gary,

    Wow, how awesome for you to be right there. Appreciate you sharing your experience with us. I can only imagine what a great time you had.

    Today has been incredible to say the least. I am exhausted from the joy and emotion of it all. It was a great Inauguration.

    Glad to hear that in spite of everything, people were respectful to George W. After all, he may have been a bad President, but he was not a bad man entirely.

    Like the folks that braved the cold with you Gary, I am very excited and hopeful. More so than I have been in a very long time. God Bless President Obama!

    Enjoy the rest of the festivities. Hope you warm up.

    January 20, 2009 at 7:23 pm |
  5. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    It's nice to know that not everyone was uncouth by trashing Former President Bush today. Whether you hated his policies or not, he is a former leader of this nation and has earned the respect you show to the position (even if you can't stomach it and show it to the man). I am glad those who waited for this moment in history were able to see it. I enjoyed the bits and pieces I caught during the day. It was pretty amazing to watch even without the golden ticket.

    January 20, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  6. Clarence Albuquerque

    Gary, I'm glad you were able to put perspective on your experience. I don't know how you landed the tickets but it sounds as if you put them to effective and enjoyable use.

    January 20, 2009 at 7:08 pm |