PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Visitors arrived to find "CLOSED" signs
at the Statue of Liberty, the Smithsonian and other parks and historic
sites across the country. Callers looking for help from the government
reached only voicemail. And federal employees were left to wonder when
they would return to work.
The first government shutdown in 17 years took hold Tuesday in ways large
About 800,000 federal employees were sent home — a number greater than the
combined U.S. workforces of Target, General Motors, Exxon and Google.
"After next week if we're not working, I'm going to have to find a job,"
said Robert Turner, a building mechanic at the Smithsonian's American
History museum in the nation's capital. He was called in for part of the
day to take out the trash, turn off the water and help close up the place.
The effects played out in a variety of ways, from scaled-back operations
at federal prosecutors' offices and the FBI to revoked permits for dozens
of weddings at historic sites in Washington. Campers at national parks
were given two days to pack up and leave, and some parks were entirely
closed to traffic.
In Philadelphia, Paul Skilling of Northern Ireland had wanted to see the
Liberty Bell up close but had to settle instead for looking at the symbol
of democracy through glass.
And he wasn't optimistic about the chances of visiting any landmarks in
Washington, the next stop on a weekslong visit.
"Politics is fantastic, isn't it?" he said ruefully.
In New York, tourists who hoped to see the Statue of Liberty were instead
offered an hour harbor cruise.
"There has to be better ways to run the government than to get to a
standstill like this," said Cheryl Strahl, a disappointed visitor from
Atascadero, Calif. "Why take it out on the national parks?"
The government closings did not stop the launch on Tuesday of the
enrollment period for the online insurance marketplaces established under
President Barack Obama's health care overhaul — the program at the very
heart of the dispute that produced the shutdown.
The two federal employees in orbit around the Earth — NASA astronauts
Karen Nyberg and Michael Hopkins — carried on as usual aboard the
International Space Station, with essential employees at Mission Control
in Houston supporting the lab and its six inhabitants.
There were no TV or web updates, however, as most of NASA's workforce was
Anglers headed to the highly anticipated first day of the fall fishing
season on North Carolina's Outer Banks found they could not drive onto the
beach at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Dozens of goats were taken off ivy-eating duty at Fort Hancock, a
recreation area in Sandy Hook, N.J. A KKK rally planned for the Gettysburg
battlefield in Pennsylvania this weekend was canceled.
In the nation's capital, fountains were being turned off on the National
Mall and the National Zoo closed. Its beloved panda-cam went dark.
But hundreds of veterans from Iowa and Mississippi walked past barricades
at the National World War II Memorial after members of Congress cut the
police tape for them.
The IRS suspended audits for the duration of the shutdown, and call
centers were left unmanned. In St. Paul, Minn., the voicemail warned
callers they "should file and pay their taxes as normal."
The 12 million people who got six-month extensions must still file their
returns by Oct. 15. But the agency will not issue tax refunds until the
government resumes normal operations.