While TV viewers from Seattle to Stockholm focused on a nation's capital "paralyzed by fear" and under siege, the fact is that Thursday was pretty much business as usual for the 347,000 civil servants here who tend the machinery of government.
Strict security precautions in many agencies reminded employees that more than 100 people were being held hostage - in three separate buildings - by gunmen. Some offices were slow to fill up because by street closings and rerouting of buses used by Maryland and Virginia commuters.
Many car pools were upset, or late. Normal parking was impossible in some downtown areas that have been blocked off by police.But most restaurants and cafeterias were full at lunch time; people were eating in parks and life - for most of Washington - went on.
Commerce Department workers whose offices face the District Building - one of the places where gunmen were holding hostages - were told to keep away from windows. But officials said work went on as usual, although newsstands quickly sold out of. The Post, Star and New York Times, and transistor radios were going full blast as workers tried to keep up with the latest developments.
After the initial shock of the three building takeovers, and the killing and beatings in the first hours of the Wednesday nightmare, it was almost as if Washington's bureaucrats - who have seen kings walk down the street and Presidents living and dead pass before them - were going out of their way to keep up appearances and not let the terrorists disrupt any more activities than they already have done.
Federal officials were aware of the commuting problems of employees, but they intentionally held off any public statement about tardiness.
"If anybody was late for a good reason, I'm sure supervisors will be sympathetic in granting short excuses for short periods of tardiness," an official said. "But we just don't want to make a big thing out of this now and give them (the terrorists) the satisfaction that they have brought the government to its kness. It just didn't happen."
So Thursday, March 10, wasn't a typical Washington day. But if you were here - not in Seattle or Stockholm or London - you know that it wasn't exactly a town choked into immobility and crazed with fear. It is fashionable to knock bureaucrats and politicans, but in times like this the government just doesn't grind to a halt, because too many capable, level-headed people refuses to let it.
Alfred E. Smith Elected President! It happened the other day but it wasn't the former Democratic governor of New York, but police officer Alfred E. Smith. He's the new president of the American Federation of Government Employees local at the National Zoological Park. Other officers are Hurwitz B. Moye, Charles H. Van Tassel, Bart J. Finn and Willis Boggs.