Crowds Wait Up To Four Hours to Collect Inauguration Tickets

Ticket holders to Tuesday's inauguration ceremony knew they were going to have to brave the cold and wait outside for hours to see the ceremony.

But they didn't know they were going to endure a similar drill Monday just to collect their tickets from lawmakers offices in the congressional office buildings.

Lines of thousands of people snaked around the perimeter of the Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn buildings and down Independence Ave. as many ticket holders waited as long as four hours to clear security to enter the House offices to obtain their tickets.

"I'm freezing!" exclaimed Janae Wills of Decatur, Ill., who waited outside the Cannon House Office Building. Finally an aide to Rep. Phil Hare ran the tickets outside to a very gracious Wills.

"I was like, Please don't take my tickets." Wills said.

Her congressman seemed just as exasperated.

"This is the craziest system I've seen," said the Illinois Democrat. "They should have opened every door. They should have gotten extra security. I can't shut people out. People (from his district) traveled 700 miles for this."

On a typical day, everyone except lawmakers must pass through a magnetometer and have their bags and cell phones X-rayed before entering the House office buildings. But on Monday, U.S. Capitol Police required all visitors, congressional aides and credentialed journalists to remove their shoes before coming inside.

While the crowds were civil, several of those waiting in line reported that people coming off the Capitol South Metro station periodically tried to cut in line.

Congressional aides tried to call ticket holders to locate where they were in line. But several staffers indicate that the sheer volume of electronic traffic on Capitol Hill was beginning to curb cell phone reception and prevent text messaging.

The Joint Inaugural Committee allotted each House 198 tickets to distribute as they saw fit.