Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mass Shooting #13

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
the midst
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,
Navy base.

We civilians
 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


broadcast system
 announced a lockdown

 and instructed us to shelter
in place

. From our third floor window,
we saw SWAT teams
clinically moving
 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.

About 10:30,
 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.
“Hands up!
 Get your hands up!
 Everybody to the back of the room!”

I jolted off
my rear
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

A                                                                                                                    few
minutes                                                                                                         later,
someone                                                                                                     asked whether                                                                                                    anyone
had                                                                                                                    a
medical                                                                                                   condition
or                                                                                                              needed
to                                                                                                                   use
the                                                                                                         bathroom.

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
 moved us
 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
confused people.
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.

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