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The Spectators

Seeking a Sliver of History, No Obstacle Too Formidable

By Peter Whoriskey and Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 21, 2005; Page A01

The first hassle: Strollers were not permitted along the parade route. The kids would have to be dragged or carried.

The second hassle: The line for security. It would take more than an hour waiting in the icy cold before they would even begin to approach the tent where visitors were frisked.

An Army sergeant at a guard station at Seventh and D streets NW attempts to give directions to individuals amid a throng of spectators, reporters and people attempting to get to their jobs downtown. (Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

The third hassle: Bathrooms. With the hotels closed off to all but guests, those in need while waiting would have to sweet-talk their way in somewhere.

Yet for Lawrence and Nancy Spinetta of Arlington, who already had swaddled their two preschoolers in mittens and ski pants, packed away snacks and then schlepped downtown on the Metro, none of this mattered next to the chance to take part in what they called a "celebration of democracy."

Like many families who visited downtown for the event, they discovered that viewing the inaugural parade was a mission that only the determined could accomplish.

"Forget about the politics," said Lawrence Spinetta, 34, an F-15 Air Force pilot doing staff work in Washington. The family was among about 20 spectators remaining on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue near 15th Street NW as the last of the parade went by. "We're stubborn people."

For much of the public traveling to the parade yesterday, the experience of seeing the president and pageantry required navigating a slow-motion gantlet through protesters, security-gate confusion -- which gates take which tickets? -- and of course, the cold.

At times, with protesters squaring off against riot police and the smell of pepper spray in the air, the festive gathering seemed scary, too.

Many local residents who went to the inauguration came for pragmatic reasons: to watch their child's school band march, to accompany their mother visiting from the Midwest, to witness it for the first time before they moved elsewhere. But many said their friends and neighbors who might have gone in the past didn't go this year because they feared terrorism, protesters and, maybe most of all, the security precautions themselves.

"People aren't going to come stand in line for an hour-and-a-half for a cotton-pickin' inaugural," said Tom Broderick, a retired Navy engineer from Bethesda.

He was there, Broderick said, because as a native Washingtonian he has attended seven decades of inaugurations, and it's a family tradition, one that he and his wife, Pat, follow with dinner at the Ritz.

Gaye Dyer, 43, a marketer from Capitol Hill, came for her stepfather, who was visiting from out of town. But she thinks of inaugurations as "almost old school."

For the average local resident, getting to the parade and/or seeing anything seemed to be a chancy proposition. While some reported waiting 20 or 30 minutes to get through lines at some checkpoints, others said they had been forced to wait for 2 1/2 hours. Reserved bleachers occupied most of the prime sidewalk space, and the general public crowded 10-deep on the corners where they were permitted to stand.

"I don't think this is very encouraging to the public -- it's not open," said Anita Enterline, 68, of Fairfax. "I mean, it is open, but let's face it, there's only a little area to stand."

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