WASHINGTON – Several tourists who came to Washington to see federal museums and monuments were instead huddling outside in doorways Tuesday afternoon, trying to avoid a cold, driving rain.
Cathy Murdough of Satellite Beach, Fla., said while waiting for a Metro train that she had come to “just see everything. Now, I’ll see the outside,” she said.
“At least there are no bugs. You’ve got to look at the bright side,” she said.
As the budget impasse between President Clinton and congressional leaders continued, many of Washington’s tourist sites joined other federal agencies and services and closed early Tuesday. The shutdown left tourists wondering what to do or making plans to leave the city early.
Murdough arrived Monday night for what she said was her first visit to the nation’s capital. She said she and her husband had planned to leave Wednesday evening, but were considering leaving Wednesday morning unless sites reopened.
She had sympathy for federal workers who were furloughed Tuesday. “For me, it’s a vacation. It’s not my job,” she said.
Cateriana Scafariello, a psychiatrist from Rome visiting the area for business, was rebuffed twice as she tried to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In an earlier try, she didn’t have the needed tickets for the tour. “Today, I was ready to visit the museum, but I’m not lucky,” she said shortly after museum employees told her the building had closed.
Scafariello, who said she is due to return home on Saturday after a two-week stay, said the Italian government also has seen shutdowns, but usually because of strikes.
Portland, Ore., residents Delores Sharp and Leona Richardson visit Washington every year at this time to attend the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobbying group, they said.
The shutdown is “pretty inconvenient. It’s frustrating,” Sharp said as the two women, standing outside the National Gallery of Art, reviewed their restaurant choices for lunch.
Pointing out the importance of the tourism industry to the District, Sharp said, “The president ought to take that into consideration.”
Diana Cooper, a visitor from Norfolk, England, called the shutdowns “bad news.” She and her sister, Monica Townson of Toronto, Canada, were in Washington for only three days.
“Yesterday, we rushed around in case this happened,” she said outside the shuttered Smithsonian Institution.
In their hurried tour Monday, they visited the White House and made it to Arlington Cemetery before dark, they said.
“Why can’t the government get it together? It must be terrible for federal employees,” Townson said. Cooper said her visit was flawed from beginning to end. Her flight into Washington Saturday night was marred by 80 mph winds. “That was our welcome,” she said, “and this is our departure.” -30-