Washington: What Tourists Can Expect
by Tom Reed
WMV Web News Cleveland
Story filed October 26, 2001

Washington, D.C. is not quite a ghost town, but tourists have been staying away in droves since the terrorist attacks of September 11. If you’re planning to visit the nation’s capital for business or pleasure, you’ll find a lot of changes.

On the day the House of Representatives shut down because of the anthrax scare, I was in the city for a conference at the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian complex. The banner headline in the Washington Times that morning read “Anthrax Panic Cripples the Capitol.”

The museums were open, but attendance has been down dramatically since September 11. School groups that normally fill the halls were nowhere to be seen. Security guards search every purse, handbag, backpack or briefcase brought into the buildings. Lines were relatively short on that day, but a staff member wondered aloud how long the lines would be when the busy season returned.

Everywhere you go, you see armed guards and police vehicles, and ugly concrete barriers like those used in highway construction. Police on foot, in cars, and on horseback patrol the streets around the White House. White House tours, by the way, have been canceled until further notice.

Curbside vendors are still doing business, but not much business, on the Mall. The T-shirts for sale reflect the new national mood. “God Bless America” and other patriotic slogans are common, as are shirts labeled F.B.I.

In some ways, this is not a bad time to visit Washington. Tourist attractions are uncrowded, you can usually get a table in a restaurant without a reservation, and the mid October weather has been delightful. But that’s small consolation for a situation that has turned one of the nation’s most beautiful cities into an armed camp.


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Copyright 2001 Tom Reed