The Discovery Channel Building

I went to the gym today.  I was feeling particularly virtuous because it meant I went to the gym multiple times this week.  I even managed to keep my heart rate “in the zone” (below 140) for the majority of the time on the cross-trainer and it left me feeling a bit sore in places that need exercise.  I mention this because I had a meeting at 1:30pm and I needed to pick up lunch and be back by around 1pm-ish.  Had I gone at my normal time, I would have been locked out of my building.

I walked back into the building at 1:06pm, annoyed a few people, sat down to my desk, and heard people talking loudly about something going on across the street.  Then I heard the police sirens.  I have a big wall of windows.  I can see actual weather and time, but I can also hear the street noise from 29 and the Silver Spring Metro (Red Line).  Most importantly, the building is across the street from Discovery Channel HQ and most windows have a view.

By “across the street,” I do not mean down the block a half mile away.  I mean, literally, across the street.  Look out the window and there it is.  The building makes a big wind tunnel in winter.  It’s hilarious during Shark Week when they strap giant inflatable shark parts to the building.  It has the best lobby with a giant dinosaur skeleton and a physics machine.  The lobby is open to the public and people do stroll through at lunch.  I have done so myself.

This means I called into my meeting and it was punctuated by sirens in the background and people going, “What was that?”  I had my droid and peered at twitter and coworkers who were coming back from lunch were posting pictures of police mayhem right outside.  We all got off the phone (meeting over) and headed off to go peer out a window with a good view.  We watched the police block off 29 and put up yellow tape.  We watched the news helicopters fly in and the various TV stations set up their gear and harass random people heading back from Downtown.   We watched at least 30 police cars show up and park.

So okay, it turns out there’s a crazy guy in the DIscovery Channel building across the street and the FBI was called in.  He has a gun and he has fired either one or five shots.  He had between one and twelve hostages at any one time.  He has a bomb.  He has multiple bombs.  The downtown strip behind the building by Borders was evacuated (this one was true).  Cops were telling people to get off the street or they were going to arrest them (they didn’t).  The giant Police Command Center RV pulled up.  We found streaming video of the news outside.  We watched the helicopters above us give us shots on the monitors of what we were looking at out the windows.

And we did watch the cops evacuate the day care center in the Discovery Channel building.  People pushed cribs across 29.  They disappeared into the McDonald’s.  We joked that the McD’s was selling its weight in McFlurries.

Nothing happened for a long time.  Our building was switched to key card access only, probably to keep the gaggles of reports that set up on our curb in front of our building (Metro Level exit) from wandering in and out.  The news told us the name of the guy, flashed a picture, and it was eerie: it was a guy who had been seen, often, standing around on various corners at lunch time waving his sign.   It was THAT GUY in a “HEY, IT’S THAT GUY!” sort of way.  People got up and milled around and went to the windows to watch the SWAT guys stand around.  (One apparently took a header climbing out of the truck.)  Work kind of happened in drips and drabs with the thoughts that the guy across the street had something strapped to him and it might be a bomb and it might be worse.

That was exciting.

I spent most of my afternoon watching the news spread from the local news to the WaPo to CNN to the NYTimes to the BBC and then everywhere.  It was a little boggling that closing the street outside my window was now world-wide news. It didn’t help that our local crazy guy had left a manifesto full of environmentalism and evolution and anchor babies and squirrels.  (Squirrels?)  It was a manifesto’s manifesto and the Internets, as they are, were having a field day while we were waiting for it to end so we could go home.

Then it was over.  5pmish.  The SWAT guys lured our friend, the local crazy guy, out of the lobby by the nice dinosaur bones and science displays, out to the manicured sitting area in front of the doors and ended it.  The crazy guy’s bomb did go off, but it went pfft.  We watched the cops pull away and some of the back streets began opening up.

Then there was escape.

Good grief, man.  What kind of world do we live in now that it seems sensible to try to blow up the Discovery Channel? Not a BP office?  Or the nice government offices around the corner?  I joked when it started that the guy objected to “The Deadliest Catch” and I wasn’t far off.  And it’s not like those offices are small.  That building is huge.  I know the crazy guy had years of being barred from coming into the building and he snapped.  But really?  The Discovery Channel?

That was my day.  How was yours?