The United States: Yes, we’re open! (Please pardon our appearance.)
Because it’s not as easy as flipping a switch.
“Today’s going to be all about looking at schedules and prioritizing,” said Brenda Mulac, delighted to be working again at NASA’s office of strategic planning. On a Metro train rumbling toward the District, Mulac also looked forward to doughnuts, certain that someone in her office would show up with a box.
“They always do,” she said.
Rarely have so many been so happy to get up and go back to the mill.
“I have 500 e-mails,” said a woman puffing on a cigarette in front of the Department of Education’s sprawling headquarters on Maryland Avenue SW. “I got through about a hundred of them before taking a break.”
And there was Adam Schwartz, on the job at 6 a.m., scooping dirt and leaves out of the fountain at the World War II Memorial on the Mall, where monuments closed and barricaded for two weeks stood as symbols of Washington’s paralysis.
“The key is to make it crystal clear again,” Schwartz said. “For the veterans.”
The barriers came down Thursday, as did signs warning visitors not to enter, while federal programs serving veterans, cancer patients, seniors citizens and others started gearing up. So did cultural attractions, including national museums.
And there was Mei Xiang, the giant panda, and her yet-to-be-named cub, back on the National Zoo’s popular online panda cams for the world to view — a fatter and more robust cub than panda-watchers saw earlier this month, before the cam went dark.
After the Metrorail system opened at 5 a.m., commuters saw more eight-car trains than they had since federal employees were furloughed. With ridership down 20 percent during the government closure and fare revenue greatly diminished, the transit system had been running more six-car trains to save on electricity.
Not everything went smoothly everywhere Thursday. The U.S. Park Service said that sections of Beach Drive along Rock Creek Parkway were closed during the morning rush as crews worked to clean fallen leaves after days of not being able to maintain the area. Officials said they expected the road to be reopened for evening commuters.
At the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, shuttle buses that ferry employees on the campus and to other NIH facilities weren’t running normally early Thursday. Some employees had to scramble to find other ways to get to their offices.