WASHINGTON (AP) — Barriers went down at federal memorials and National Park Service sites, and thousands of furloughed federal workers returned to work across the country Thursday after 16 days off the job due to the partial government shutdown.
Among the sites reopening were Gettysburg National Park in Pennsylvania, the Smithsonian Institution's network of popular museums, and World War II memorial in Washington, which had been the scene of protests over the shutdown.
"Just to be able to get back to serving the public is so important," said Greg Bettwy, preparing to return to work with the Smithsonian's human resource department. Bettwy said he watched his spending carefully during the shutdown — choosing store brands for groceries and forgoing a trip to see a Penn State football game.
For other returning workers, shutdown-related frustration turned to elation at being back on the job. Some confronted backlogs of email and paperwork, others voiced concern that a gridlocked Congress might trigger another shutdown in January.
"It's good to be back to work, making some money," said Jeremy Wright, 23, a Transportation Security Administration contractor. But he knows more unpaid time off is possible: "They only pushed it back to January, so I'm not holding my breath."
In Washington, the Capitol's visitor center planned to resume tours Thursday, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was reopening, and the Smithsonian — overseer of many of Washington's major museums — proclaimed on Twitter, "We're back from the (hashtag)shutdown!" The National Zoo was set to reopen Friday, though its popular panda cam was expected to be back online Thursday.
At the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, cafeteria worker Alexis Albert said it was good to be back at work. During the shutdown, she made some money by washing hair at her aunt's salon but said her funds were running low.