Robert Kay served in the Air Force during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and through much of the Cold War. A resident of South Carolina, he came to the D.C. area this week for the first time in 40 years with his wife to visit the memorials honoring his friends who died in service. His wife’s father died in World War II, and she was hoping to visit the memorial honoring his sacrifice.

But on Tuesday around 10 a.m., Kay was walking around the Mall alone, hoping to get as close as possible to any of the memorials, which the National Park Service closed this morning. His wife opted to stay back at their hotel in Alexandria. “I’m glad she didn’t come, she would have been very disappointed,” he said. (Later in the morning, the Post reports, a group of veterans from Mississippi stormed the World War II Memorial, apparently without resistance from the National Park Police.)

“I’ve been waiting to see them for a long time,” Kay said of the memorials. “But I’ve been through worse things than this.”

This was pretty much the scene on the National Mall early Tuesday—-a small number of tourists wandering around, trying to catch glimpses of whichever monuments they could, looking for anything that was open.

“I’m just wandering aimlessly looking to find something to do,” Jessica Ehrgott, visiting from Denver, said.  

Most people on the Mall seemed to know that the government was shut down and the museums had closed—-except one foreign tourist who ran up the stairs of the Natural History Museum and seemed confused about why it was closed—-but with tickets to D.C. booked long in advance, they opted to come anyway.

Dan Nicoloff had been planning his trip for three months and rode his motorcycle in from Buffalo. He was scheduled to camp out in Shenandoah National Park with a friend tomorrow night, but will have to find somewhere else to stay, since the park is also shut down.

Another woman was visiting from Chicago with a friend who had flown in from Tokyo to see the “worldwide famous” Smithsonian museums. She was afraid the shutdown would occur, but didn’t want to waste her tickets.

She declined to give her name, explaining that all she wanted to do was blame the Republican Party.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery