Around U.S., closed, closed … closed
- Article by: KATHY MATHESON and MARK SCOLFORO
- Associated Press
- October 1, 2013 - 8:35 PM
PHILADELPHIA – 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 voice mail. Government websites were inactivated, as were Twitter accounts. 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 and small.
About 800,000 federal employees were sent home — a number greater than the combined U.S. workforces of Target, General Motors, Exxon and Google.
Operations were scaled back at federal prosecutors’ offices and the FBI, and permits were revoked for dozens of weddings at historic sites in Washington.
Campers and hikers at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and other national parks were given two days to pack up and leave, and new visitors were being turned away. St. Louis’ landmark 630-foot-high Gateway Arch was off-limits as well.
In Philadelphia, Paul Skilling of Northern Ireland wanted to see the Liberty Bell but had to settle 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 weeks-long visit.
“Politics is fantastic, isn’t it?” he said ruefully.
In New York, tourists who had 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 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 furloughed.
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.
No grazing, no panda cam
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.
The IRS suspended audits for the duration of the shutdown, and call centers were left unmanned. 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.
The New York Times contributed to this report.
© 2013 Star Tribune