A found poem on yesterday's mass shooting in DC, sourced here
At 5 a.m., my alarm erupted
with its usual blend of static and pop music,
the start of another day
of work at the Washington Navy Yard.
I was in the car at 5:15
and pulled through the gates to the base at 6:15,
handing my ID card to one of the police officers
at the gate as I always do.
Two of them would reportedly
be dead within a few hours.
I’m a civilian contractor for the Navy,
and in the five weeks I’ve been assigned
to work at the Navy Yard in declassification,
I have come to love the base. I
t’s a quiet, small-town alcove in
of the city,
and it has gorgeous
views of the river,
a relaxed atmosphere, and a Dunkin’ Donuts
just steps from my desk.
There are always military personnel around,
but, to me, it seems as though
the base is mostly civilian —
a bunch of lucky professionals
in D.C.’s hidden,
can enjoy most of what the base has, including
the convenience store, bar and some of the best
crab soup I have ever had.
The base’s many monuments
and museums make it a perfect place to
take a long walk.
During the summer,
there were even base-wide ice cream socials
every other Thursday.
And a few days ago, on 9/11,
the Navy held a gun salute
at the moment when the first plane
hit the first tower.
Working here feels like being
a part of a unique, thriving
announced a lockdown
and instructed us to shelter
. From our third floor window,
we saw SWAT teams
up the street
with their weapons drawn,
but we heard only rumors
for the next two hours.
We heard some radio
and Twitter news,
and a bit of Internet news,
and lots of people were getting text
messages from friends and family.
We were all just
shouting out the latest information
we had. The number of shooters kept
increasing and so did the number of victims.
Then we heard that some victims
had died, then
that an admiral had been shot.
One of my co-workers
saw a woman walking up
the street bleeding from her head.
We tried to work but couldn’t focus.
[For up to the minute
information about the shooting, check
When the lockdown was first announced,
we rolled our eyes at the man
in our outer office
who told us to stay away
from the windows
for fear of becoming a target.
He seemed to be having a panic attack
It wasn’t obvious
that something major
was happening. I
t seemed far more likely that
this was a drill or some kind of mistake.
As we learned more, we stayed safe in our office,
behind two secure doors
that require pass codes for entry. Sitting with my friends,
it almost felt safe.
we were moved to the basement of our building,
into a small library. They counted us as we went by.
We huddled together
in the back
of the room,
sitting on the floor.
An older man near us observed that being in that room
on the ground level probably
made us less safe than
if we had stayed where we were.
As we huddled on the floor,
U P ,
an alarm went off
It took us a moment
to realize that it was the library’s
security system going off
We were a bit tense
but mostly calm.
A few minutes passed,
and they finally \
made an announcement.
A woman near me wouldn’t
stop talking so we could hear.
I shushed her more forcefully
than I would have thought possible,
and she silenced herself immediately.
My Marine colonel grandfather would have been proud.
Then, it happened.
Get your hands up!
Everybody to the back of the room!”
I jolted off
into a crouched position
and looked around.
quickly realized that I was in
the back of the room already
Somehow, that didn’t make me
feel any better.
I unlocked my phone
to call my wife.
Another man’s phone
rang in that moment of silence,
and everyone glared at him,
like it was his fault.
We couldn’t hear
what was going on in the hallway
where the yelling had come from,
but it seemed
to have been just a
ever explained what
someone asked whether anyone
They started taking us to the bathroom in
groups of two
Someone found candy
and passed it around
got up and kicked myself for not thinking more
about the room when
I had walked into it.
took that time to note the exact
position of the door, the windows
, and something I could use as a weapon.
“Congress and the
Even in that moment,
I still smiled at the thought
of killing a terrorist with “Congress and the Nation.”
A few minutes later, they
to another building.
\I grabbed my co-workers and said that I thought
we should stick together and that we
should not be at the beginning or the end of the line,
just in case. We got outside and jogged
to the food court,
where there were bathrooms and hundreds of other
And now I’m preparing to leave the Navy Yard, still confused,
after a very different day than I imagined having
when I left home at 5 in the morning.
Ryan is a civilian contractor for the Navy.