Thursday, January 22, 2009

The inauguration was a day of records big and small — from the country’s first black president to Metro ridership to the number of lost children in a day.

“It was an incredibly busy day,” said D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter. “At one point, we were receiving several calls a minute.” Mr. Etter said the agency responded to roughly 500 emergency calls, including 201 in which victims were taken to a hospital. “That’s more people than we’ve transported for a single event in history,” he said.

In addition, 957 people were treated at medical tents along the parade route and at Metro stations, include some who struggled with temperatures in the 20s.

There were no fatalities connected to the extended, four-day inaugural weekend. The most serious injury occurred Tuesday morning when a 68-year-old woman fell onto the train tracks at the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro Station. She was treated and released for a shoulder injury at Washington Hospital Center.

The National Park Service, which was banned by Congress in 1997 from issuing crowd estimates on federal properties, said Wednesday only that it would not contest published reports that 1.8 million people were on the Mall for the swearing-in of Barack Obama.

“It was an incredible day for the nation, including the men and women of the National Park Service who supported inaugural activities,” agency spokesman David Barna said.

Perhaps the biggest news was the smallest number. There were no arrests by the unprecedented Secret Service-led security detail that included more than 50,000 police and military personnel from across the country.

However, Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren acknowledged the agency worked with the Capitol Hill Police on problems at security checkpoints around the Capitol, including people with swearing-in tickets not getting to their seats.

“With few exception, all of the checkpoints operated very well,” he said. “We will certainly look into where people did have a problem.”

As many as 32 children were lost then reunited with their families, according to the U.S. Park Police. However, the agency said Wednesday they are looking for a 34-year-old male last seen at 1 p.m. Tuesday near the Washington Monument. Erskine Bates is 34 and mentally challenged, according to police. He is described as black male, 6 feet tall and weighing 180 pounds. Mr. Bates was wearing a red-and-tweed hat and a black coat.

Metro reported 1,120,000 subway trips on Inauguration Day — breaking the record of 866,681 set Monday.

“Our Metro system wasn’t designed to transport this many people in such a short time, but we did it,” General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. said.

Still, there were long delays at stations, particularly the L’Enfant Plaza stop where some passengers waited for hours just after noon.

The most confusing incidents occurred along the parade route, on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, where as many as 5,000 people with tickets were turned away at checkpoints because of overcrowding. The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies issued a formal apology to those turned away at checkpoints.

Also on Wednesday, contractors began removing the 5,500 portable toilets and 17 miles of bike racking and chain-link fencing for the events on the Mall, said Bill Line, spokesman for the Capital Region National Park Service.

He said the Presidential Inaugural Committee was in charge of all the barriers and toilets on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest and east of Fourth Street Northwest. Mr. Line also said 95 to 100 tons of litter, debris and abandoned items were removed from the Mall and memorial parks. He said the amount was in addition to what city crews had removed.

• Audrey Hudson contributed to this report.

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