In the shadow of the Washington Monument, 26 Boy Scouts from Rochester, N.Y., sat dejected and grumpy, having been shut out of the national treasure on the first day of the federal government shutdown.
No one was more upset than troop leader Al Climer. "I waited a lifetime to come here," he said. "I think it's an insult to the American people."
Esma Climer, his wife, tugged at his sleeve. "They've got to do what they've got to do," she said, then paused a moment. "But they're hurting the people coming to honor our country's capital."
There was little forgiveness or understanding for America's leaders yesterday among the thousands of tourists who either did not know the government had shut down or came to the Mall area anyway because they could not believe something as abstract as the budget deficit could matter to National Park Service rangers or Smithsonian museum guards.
The people let their government know they were not happy. At one of the only federal establishments open yesterday, the U.S. Capitol, tourists in the House gallery, normally a place of quiet, respectful observation, erupted into applause and hoots yesterday after Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) suggested they should not be kept out of the Smithsonian.
At the White House, a 12-year-old from China, Kelun Zhang, was puzzled over this thing called the federal budget.
"What does the budget have to do with visiting the White House?" she asked. "You come to America just to see the White House. This is real disappointing."
Yesterday was the first day of a government-wide shutdown of nonessential services that will last until the president and Congress, which was in session, agree to a stopgap funding measure or a deficit-reducing budget.
Federal employees are to report to work as usual on Tuesday, when those deemed nonessential can expect to be sent home in the first three hours of the day.
Many weekend employees were off yesterday, although the Federal Aviation Administration kept its full staff of air traffic controllers at work and the U.S. Postal Service was unaffected. Federal law enforcement officials stayed on duty at full force, as did the military.
In New York, thousands of visitors were turned away from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Virginia's federally funded Civil War battlefield parks and Shenandoah National Park visitors centers were closed.
In the Washington area, all 13 Smithsonian museums were closed, as were the picnic areas along the George Washington Parkway, Ford's Theater, Arlington House and Pierce Mill in Rock Creek Park. The National Zoo's outdoor viewing areas were open, but the animal houses were closed.
National Park Service spokeswoman Sandra Alley said there were four rangers on duty at the Mall area yesterday. Because there was no maintenance crew, all the restrooms were closed. "We don't have anyone to clean them," she said. "It has not been pleasant."
Although the threat of a government shutdown has loomed for weeks, tourists said they were surprised to find the doors of prestigious national museums locked.
At the popular Air and Space Museum, a line of children and parents pressed their faces against the building's smoky glass exterior, peering in on a great, empty hall filled with spaceships and airplanes.
"Is it going to open soon?" young Michael Kocurek Jr. of South Carolina whined to his father. "It's closed because the budget's broken," he said, looking down at his shoes. "We could just bring them some money."
At the White House, tourists clung like forlorn refugees to the black fence that surrounds the grounds. At the Washington Monument, oblivious tourists strode up to the locked beige gates to find out what was wrong.
"Will it be open later today?" they asked a visitor.
"Will it be open tomorrow?"
Only some, only the Americans, understood the answer. For the foreign visitors, the shutdown was a curious thing.
"Why is it closed today?" a woman from China asked U.S. Secret Service officer M.T. Piepoli.
"The budget," he answered loudly. "Nobody could agree."
Maria and Tony Valles from Colonia, N.J., brought their two Italian cousins to the White House. "They thought Italy was bad," said Tony Valles. "But this is terrible."
Zhongxuan Jiang, a Chinese student living in Baltimore, laughed when asked what the eight Chinese tourists he was with thought of the situation. "Maybe," he said, "they had a little surprise."
The disappointment was financial as well.
"Come on, put on a sad face," Marsha Wheeler told her two children as she snapped their photo in front of the monument gates.
The Wheelers of Connecticut were not happy with President Bush yesterday. If only he had shut down the government Friday, said Curtis Wheeler, "he would have saved us a couple of hundred bucks."
Across the Mall, a bus load of white-haired ladies from St. Mary's Parish in Lakewood, N.J., filed off their bus and climbed the stairs of a museum. "We had no idea these buildings would be closed," said Corinne Kerod. "It cost us 200 bucks to make this trip. Tell Mr. Bush we are very aggravated."
Group leader Dorothy Lawlor made some inquiries, then returned with a sarcastic grin on her face. She had just been to the Tourmobile kiosk where, she said, she was told "we're giving you this special price, for $4 you can go on the tour, but everything's closed," she said. "They said we could go to Union Station, but who wants to visit a railroad station?"
At the National Zoo, thousands of visitors spent the day waiting for the pandas and apes to come outdoors. "I'm a little disappointed, but it's a nice day," said Pat Lofaro of Fairfax.
There was one federal installation open and in full swing yesterday: the U.S. Capitol. Tourists thronged to the building.
Capitol police officers at entrances on both the House and Senate sides reported heavy traffic throughout the day and the U.S. Capitol Guide Service estimated that 12,000 people would take their tours.
"It's a guess, but it's one of the busiest days, if not the busiest day, we've had," said supervisor Ted Daniel of the U.S. Capitol Guide Service, who was interrupted several times to answer what appeared to be the most pressing question of the day: Where are the bathrooms?
Tourists packed the gallery, the crypt and the rotunda and were jammed two-deep in front of the visitor's booth run by the nonprofit U.S. Capitol Historical Society.
"I can tell you we're a very disappointed family," said Richard Reed from Trenton, N.J. "You come to Washington to show your kids the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the museums, and I've got to explain to them that everything's closed because the government's run out of money? Give me a break!"
The wait to get into the building grew during the day to three hours.
Informed by a reporter that the wait was so long, Senate Republican Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) quipped: "That's because we're the only zoo in town."
Staff writers William Booth, Gabriel Escobar, Tom Kenworthy and Jane Seaberry contributed to this report.
CLOSED: All 13 Smithsonian Institution museums, the White House, Library of Congress, Ford's Theatre performances, Washington Monument and national park facilities such as Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Pierce Mill, Fort Washington Park, Harpers Ferry National Park, Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery, Frederick Douglass Home, picnic areas along George Washington Parkway, Great Falls Park, Wolf Trap Farm Park, Assateague Island National Seashore, Clara Barton House, Fort Hunt Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island and Oxon Hill Farm.
OPEN, WITH LIMITED SERVICES: The Jefferson, Lincoln and Vietnam memorials will be open, but there will be no visitor services. Hains Point and parts of East Potomac Park will be closed to vehicles; the golf course, tennis courts and miniature golf will operate. Shenandoah National Park is open; visitor centers and entrance centers are closed. Skyline Drive and camping areas are open. The C&O Canal and towpath are open; Great Falls Tavern is closed.
The Capitol, Kennedy Center, Arlington National Cemetery, Iwo Jima Memorial, Columbia Island and Washington Sailing marinas, Fletcher's Boat House, Thompson Boat Center and Goddard Space Flight Center are unaffected. Washington Cathedral and Dumbarton Oaks in the District, Mount Vernon and Monticello in Virginia and Assateague State Park in Maryland are not operated by the federal government. Also unaffected are the Postal Service, Amtrak train service, airline flights and Metro service.