Scenes From a Government Shutdown

Oct 1, 2013 1:03pm

Before dawn broke over the Lincoln Memorial today, you could almost forget that a government shutdown had begun just hours before. Guards walked back and forth in front of the huge statue of the nation’s 16th president and a few joggers ran up and down the steps.

But gates were piled up around the monument to ensure that everyone from runners to tourists to locals would not be able to visit the iconic monument.  All of the monuments in the nation’s capital, as well as all 19 of the popular museums and galleries run by the Smithsonian Institute and the National Zoo, will be closed throughout the shutdown.

A sign outside the National Air and Space Museum explained to visitors why its doors were closed today:

“All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed today due to the government shutdown. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

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As for the National Zoo, visitors were greeted with a sign telling them the attraction is closed because of the shutdown and employees told ABC News they had only four hours to come in, fill out paperwork, get organized and leave.

Geri Dalick, who lives in the Woodley Park neighborhood where the National Zoo is located, said he thinks the shutdown is “idiotic.”

“It makes no sense at all,” Dalick said. “It serves no purpose whatsoever and I feel badly for all the tourists who can’t go to the Smithsonian when they’re here.”

David Kaplan, who was jogging in the neighborhood, said he thinks “Congress has to get its act together, pass a budget, not a six-week extension. They have to pass a full budget for the year like they’re supposed to.”

Jim Reese, who lives in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, told ABC News he thinks the shutdown is “crazy.”

“The whole holding the government hostage over Obamacare is just ridiculous and we ought to just get on with it and stop ruining people’s lives like this,” Reese said. “I think people who work for the government or depend on the government are going to lose money. The government’s losing money, and it just puts us in a worse economic situation. So I think it affects us all.”

Dave, a tourist from Salt Lake City, Utah, who did not want to give his last name, traveled with his wife to D.C. and was hoping to see some of the sights, but it would not be the case on this trip.

“It’s pretty disappointing that we couldn’t reach a compromise,” he told ABC News outside of the National Zoo where he was hoping to walk around. “We are left with this unfortunate situation where I can’t get into anything today.”

Dave said he hopes his congressman, Rep. Jim Matheson, R-Utah, is working toward a solution.

“I’m hoping he’s working to find a compromise and get back to the old idea that we should be working together and leaning towards the betterment of the public and not the betterment of individuals or certain groups, ” he said, noting that he voted for Matheson and adding that it is “disappointing to be walking around and seeing everything shut down.”

In another part of the city, a white sign outside the National Gallery simply said the famed museum “is closed today.”

At federal agencies like the Department of Education, which expects to have 94 percent of its workforce furloughed, there was a note on the door to greet employees before they even walk through:

“All Education Employees, the Department of Education is currently under a Government wide temporary shutdown due to a lapse in appropriations,” the sign reads.

Then they are directed to a specific room or email address for questions through 2 p.m. today.

And it’s not just Washington, D.C., that’s affected.  Employees at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where 3,200 of them are stationed but only 200 are deemed critical employees, were also being given four hours to pack up their office, power down non-essential systems and then depart.

Government Shutdown: By the Numbers

Several employees going to work today told ABC News they don’t care that the government is shutdown because they have a job and they are going to do it no matter what the government does.

Even cyberspace is affected, with many government websites not fully operational. A message on the White House website says, “due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fun the government, the information on this website may not be up to date. Some submissions may not be processed, and we may not be able to respond to your inquiries.”

NASA’s and the Department of Agriculture’s websites are completely down today with only a message saying, “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience.”

Same goes for anyone trying to access the Library of Congress’ website.

One site that is operational today is healthcare.gov, where, as of 8 a.m. ET, customers could sign up for the new health insurance marketplaces, the next phase of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Individuals and their families can begin to sign up for health insurance in these marketplaces  today.

There were some reports of slowness on the site and call centers, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen acknowledged Monday there may be “glitches” in the initial rollout.

“We’re likely to have some glitches,” Sebelius said. “We will fix them and move on. Is this a sign that the law is flawed and failed? I don’t think so. I think it’s a sign that we are building a piece of complicated technology.”

ABC News’ Mary Alice Parks, Daniel Steinberger and Anneta Konstantinides contributed from Washington and Gina Sunseri contributed from Houston. 

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                                           (Image Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

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