D.C. Navy Yard Survivors Tell Their Stories

Inside building 197, panic and terror as gunfire erupts.

People hold their hands to their heads as they exit the site of a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard. Witnesses say they were “shocked” and “unnerved” by the scene.
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Capt. Mark Vanderoff began his Monday morning meeting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., when the sound of gunfire echoed from upstairs above him.

Vanderoff was on the third floor of Navy Yard building 197. The sound was startling, but unclear until someone in the hallway screamed "there is a shooter."

[LIVE BLOG: Live Updates on the Shooting at Washington Navy Yard]

The conference doors slammed shut and everyone inside began passing chairs to the front of the room to barricade the door. They flipped the conference room table and slid it in front of the door as reinforcement.

"There were bullet holes coming through the top of the room," Vanderhoff says. "There were a couple of really heroic people in there today."

Downstairs in the cafeteria, more pandemonium broke out as breakfast diners scrambled to find an exit to escape. "I just heard shots. First three shots, pow, pow, pow," says Patricia Ward. "Then four more, pow, pow, pow, pow."

Ward says she panicked.

"We didn't scream. We were in shock, running," she recalls. She kept going for 10 blocks.

[READ: At Least 12 Dead in D.C. Navy Yard Shooting]

The popping sound of bullets startled Tim Juris at his desk on the fourth floor. But he assumed it was only a drill. Then the fire alarm went off. Suddenly, he knew it wasn't a drill. He huddled in an alley with more than 100 others. A man approached him to ask what was going on, the man had heard there was a shooter. "Then he got hit," Juris said. "I've seen dead people before, but to hear the gun shots and realize you were that close, it makes me a little unnerved. It makes me like life a lot today."

In the end, 13 people, including the alleged shooter, died at the Navy Yard Monday. After nearly six hours in lockdown, dozens of Navy Yard employees were finally released. They filed down M Street in Southeast Washington. Some wore their Navy fatigues, others wore expressions of relief. One man walking by whispered into the phone "I love you honey, I'll see you when I get home."

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