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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 16: Emergency vehicles and law enforcement personnel respond to a reported shooting at an entrance to the Washington Navy Yard September 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. According to the latest news report, several people were shot with the shooter still possibly active.
WASHINGTON — Two workers at the Washington Navy Yard who came face to face with a gunman in a dimly lit hallway recounted Monday how he silently raised his rifle and opened fire on them.
"We're lucky he was far enough away he was a bad shot," said Terrie Durham, a civilian employee in the Office of Naval Sea Systems Command.
Her co-worker, Todd Brundidge, said the shots didn't come with a warning.
"No words. He raised the gun and started firing," he said.
More than a dozen people were shot in the Monday morning rampage, including a man who was standing next to Navy Commander Tim Jirus.
Jirus said he had fled the building and was in a back alley when a worker from a maintenance facility approached, asked what was going on — and was shot right there.
"He just came up and was like, 'Hey I understand you have a shooter in your building,'" Jirus said.
"I said I heard some things earlier, I don't know if they were gun shots. And then I heard two more gunshots and it hit the guy next to me and not me."
He said the man fell to the ground and he took off.
"We know people we work with were shot and they're on the way to the hospital and we don't know if they're going to make it or not make it," Jirus said. "I consider myself very lucky."
Jirus didn't see the shooter, but Durham and co-worker Brundidge had a terrifying closeup.
The pair were in their third-floor office when an alarm went off about 8:15 a.m., followed by an announcement of a fire emergency and orders to leave the building.
"I was on the phone and someone came up to my desk and said, 'This is not a drill. Someone had just been shot. There are shots in the building,'" Brundidge said.
"So I hung up the phone and started to try to get people out of the building."
Durham said she wasn't exactly sure what was happening but knew it was a dire situation.
"Our wardens came running, yelling for everyone to get out of the building," Durham said.
"We were standing right outside the door to go to the exit and we saw a man standing down the hall," she said.
He was about 40 yards away but close enough for them to see he was clad in blue and had a weapon.
'He aimed at us and shot but missed'
"He was a tall man, appeared to have dark skin, looked like he was in some kind of uniform and he had a rifle," Durham said.
"And he aimed at us and shot but missed, thank God."
Before the shots, there was silence.
"He said nothing," Brundidge said.
The stairwell was dimly lit so they didn't get a good look at the gunman's face, but Durham could see how close they came to being shot.
"He aimed high and missed," she said. "I saw where the shot missed. It was a few feet ahead of us and a foot or above where we would have been standing."
She said she ran for her life, yelling to everyone else on the stairwell, "There is a man shooting in the building, get out, get out!"
Brundidge and Durham are among thousands of people who work at the Washington Navy Yard, a sprawling facility that is home to several naval commands.
Ameisha Boatwright arrived for a job interview only to find police and fire trucks with sirens screaming.
"I told myself, I'm getting outta here," she said. "I can do this interview another day. I'm just going home now — I'm scared."
Doug Hughes, a project engineer at the Washington Navy Yard.
Hours after the gunfire ended, relatives of Navy Yard employees were still waiting for word on their loved ones.
Jacqueline Alston, who works for the National Parks Service, was hoping for a reunion with her husband, Earnest Johnson, who is an office cleaner in the building where the gunman stalked the halls.
"I'm numb," she said. "I'm asking God, let me hear that voice, let me see that man."
Doug Hughes, a project engineer at the Navy Yard who was at Nationals Park heading to a train home more than four hours after the shooting, said he was on lockdown during the rampage.
"When I was told what we heard was shots, I went to one of the offices and myself and one other lady locked ourselves in," Hughes said. "I'm glad I'm out of it and I just want I go home."
Asked what he’s going to say to his wife when he gets home, Edwards said, “I’m not going to say anything; I’m just going to hug her.”
Antoinette Proctor, a supervisor at the Navy Exchange, said her hours-long lockdown was spent well away from the shooting.
"It was very frustrating to be sitting there and not knowing what was going on, on the yard, what's actually happening around us. It was really frustrating," she said, adding she was on her way home to her children. "Today was hell, I didn't wake up this morning to experience this."
'This is not good'
Dr. Janis Orlwoski, chief medical officer at Washington Medical Center, said she spoke to the three wounded victims taken to her hospital, who were described as in stable condition.
"There is something evil in our society that we as Americans have to try to eradicate," Orlwoski said. "I may see this every day, I may be the chief medical officer of a major medical center, but there's something wrong here when we have these multiple shootings. ...
"We have to work together to get rid of it. I would like all if yoy to put my trauma center out of business," she said. "This is not America. This is not Washington, D.C.. This is not good."
First published September 17 2013, 12:49 AM