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U.S. reckons with impact of shutdown

by By MICHAEL D. SHEAR, New York Times News Service on October 01, 2013 3:23 PM

WASHINGTON — Barricades and padlocks closed access to federal facilities across the country Tuesday as the vast machinery of the federal government began systematically shutting down operations for the first time in nearly two decades.

Americans seeking services at federal buildings found the doors shuttered, and more than 800,000 federal employees braced for an uncertain financial future as their employers turned out the lights and told them to stay home. Tourists were turned away at the entrances to hundreds of national parks and monuments.

In Washington, a group of about 90 World War II veterans from Mississippi barreled through the barriers to the memorial for their fallen comrades. But at the Statue of Liberty in New York, tourists from Norway and China were prevented from getting close to the monument of freedom.

Haiyan Wang’s 9-year-old nephew, Tony, had been “wanting to go inside the Statue of Liberty for a long time,” Wang said Tuesday morning at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. She said her visiting relatives did not really understand what had happened in Washington, because “the Chinese government never closes down.”

The reality of the shutdown became clear as the hours ticked by: Children’s playgrounds in small parks around Capitol Hill were closed. The military service academies suspended all intercollegiate sports competitions. The National Zoo’s online “PandaCam” stopped showing images of the latest baby panda.

Among the most noticeable effects of the first shutdown of the Internet era: Many complex government websites were suddenly replaced by one-page notices like the one at Census.gov, which declared that “due to the lapse in government funding, census.gov sites, services, and all online survey collection requests will be unavailable until further notice.”

Amtrak trains are still running, and officials said meat inspectors, border control agents and Transportation Security Administration screeners would stay on the job. But many of the government’s services quickly evaporated Tuesday as agencies ordered a majority of their employees not to show up for work.

At the Internal Revenue Service office in downtown Denver, Andres Decasas walked into the building’s lobby, hoping to pay the $550 tax he owed on his commercial sand and gravel trucking business. The money was due Tuesday, he said. He was turned away.

“Do they have a number I can call?” he asked to no one in particular. “Can I pay them tomorrow? I need to renew this so I can work.”

PHOTO: Robert Olson, a Korean War veteran from Iowa, third from left, is pushed in his wheelchair by Zach Twedt, also from Iowa, fourth from left around the National World War II Memorial, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 in Washington. Veterans who had traveled from across the country were allowed to visit the National World War II Memorial after it had been officially closed because of the partial government shutdown. After their visit, the National World War II Memorial was closed again. The Lincoln Memorial is seen in the distance. Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday as a long-running dispute over President Barack Obama's health care law stalled a temporary funding bill, forcing about 800,000 federal workers off the job and suspending most non-essential federal programs and services. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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