WASHINGTON - 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.
It'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, suburban-like 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 community.
About 8:30 Monday morning, the base-wide 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.
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 yet that something major was happening. It 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. I was No. 70. We huddled together in the back of the room, sitting on the floor.