Some people who had wonderful tickets for the inauguration never reached their seats because of the lines at security.
Some shuddered at the protesters' shouts and scrapped or shortened their festivities.
Bill Dixon sits in the lobby of the Madison Hotel, where he waited to join a friend for a reception for Vice President Cheney.
(Tetona Dunlap -- The Washington Post)
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And some said that although they'd traveled across the country, the chaotic combination led them to settle for a view of the inauguration from in front of a TV.
"It was the most ridiculous thing I ever saw in my life," said Rob Miller, 38, a Bush supporter from Orangeburg, S.C., sporting a big, black Stetson while standing in line yesterday at Dulles International Airport. "It got to be so much you couldn't enjoy it. We had great seats for the inauguration -- in the red zone -- but we could never even get there because of the lines."
As revelers from across the country checked out of their hotels and filed through the Washington region's airports yesterday, they shared the usual inauguration stories -- of the speech, of the sense of history and power, of the cold. But it seemed that many visitors would remember the nation's 55th inaugural celebration as well for the sight of sharpshooters on rooftops, for the burdensome security checkpoints and for the masses of riot police and shouting protesters.
"They need a new law for these protesters: 'You cross the line, you do the time,' " said Kenneth E. Boring, 80, still apparently irritated by the experience as he waited to leave Reagan National Airport.
He and his wife Dottie, 59, of Dalton, Ga., are members of Republican Eagles, the elite GOP fundraising group, but they watched the president's speech from the Willard InterContinental Hotel. The security line was too long, they said, and made longer, in their opinion, by the protesters.
"It's time to put a stop to all this nonsense, protesting and causing confusion," Boring said.
Marci Powell of San Antonio went to the inauguration four years ago and remarked that this time was different.
"This time, we had tickets for everything, but we couldn't get in," she said, preparing to fly home yesterday from Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "There were throngs and throngs [in the lines for the parade]. We went over to the Marriott and watched it on television."
Her group had tickets to the Texas Wyoming Ball that night. But it was delayed in the security line and missed the president once again.
"We got in at 8:15," Powell said, "and [Bush] came in at 8."
Many students who flocked to Washington for the event seemed struck by the fact that this piece of history was intertwined with pat-down searches and a sense of imminent danger.
Nicholas Whittington, 13, of Baltimore, Ohio, and Courtney Marinak, 14, of Jupiter, Fla., came to the inauguration with the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference.
They ended up watching the parade on a television inside the National Press Club building, trapped indoors, they said, while protesters jostled with police outside. They weren't able to leave the building until 5 p.m.
"We had to walk like five miles around the parade route because of the road closures," Nicholas said, recounting another of the day's setbacks.
Justin Moidel, 17, who lives in the Pittsburgh area, attended the swearing-in with friends, but after venturing outside the security gates for food, the group ditched plans to return for the parade because of the angry protesters and daunting lines at the weapons check.
"I liked being part of history, and the passage of power," said Moidel, who said he considers himself a conservative Democrat. "But the long lines and being protested against. . . . There was one lady who yelled at me, 'Are you prepared to die?' I guess she thinks Bush is an aggressive leader who will get us into war."
One of the most glamorous points of departure for yesterday's exodus was Manassas Regional Airport, where at noon private jets were rolling up to the glass terminal like so many taxicabs. At least three congressmen breezed in, hitching rides with moneyed friends. The Rev. Jerry Falwell came through with an entourage and took off for Lynchburg, Va.
The crowd, distinguished by a scattering of furs and boots, enjoyed jet-shaped sugar cookies served on silvery trays and retold tales of inaugural bliss -- so many receptions, dinners, balls and prayer breakfasts -- as they waited for private flights home.
It was a swell several days indeed, they agreed, with only minor unpleasantness: a line here, a wayward protester there, cold feet.
Robin Greco said that when she and her husband hit a long line at a security checkpoint for the parade, their solution was simple: They just went to SunTrust Bank on Pennsylvania Avenue, where they enjoyed tenderloin, drinks and a prime, heated view. Her bank in Savannah, Ga., provided them with tickets to the exclusive party.
"We have accounts at the bank," she explained.
"I felt very, very secure," said John Jernigan, in a black fedora and with a Mississippi drawl, still looking a bit dazed from the celebrations.
"Yes, there were some waits -- and in our section there were two cruddy-looking people," he said, referring to two protesters who found their way to the prime blue section B, right in front of the Capitol. "You would've just thought they were trash that had blown in is all, but I thought it was great."
Staff writers Annie Gowen, Stephanie McCrummen, Theola S. Labbe and Paul Schwartzman contributed to this report.