In Washington, chaos and fear as capitol tries to empty

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secret Service agents at the White House shouted at tourists to get away. At the Capitol, stunned congressmen huddled under the shade trees outside. Downtown, students ran to a dorm roof to watch the Pentagon burn.

Across Washington, people left work and jammed streets and subways to try to get home as the seat of government was evacuated after devastating terrorist attacks at the Pentagon and in New York City. Sirens wailed across the city. Cars jammed the streets, and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the Washington Monument.

"I just want to get out of downtown, get someplace safe," said Tracey Nicholas, who had collected her son from his elementary school in downtown but was stranded with no way to get home. She bought Marcus, a third-grader, a hot dog and tried to think what to do.

Standing in line at the White House, Elmar Torenga of Holland and a friend heard the news of the World Trade Center attacks on a radio. Then they heard a big explosion. "We were quite scared. ... A policeman who seemed quite panicked told us to get ... out of here."

Inside the Capitol, guards ran through the hallways shouting at people to leave. "There's a plane coming," one frantic guard shouted. "Get out!"

Outside, Senate President Pro Tem Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., talked to reporters until a loud boom from behind the Capitol caused an aide to grab him by the arm and try to drag him away. "Some people in the world are bent on destruction," Byrd said.

At George Washington University near the State Department, student Aaron Costello, 20, of Richmond, Va., ran to his dorm roof to see the Pentagon smoking across the Potomac River.

"It's still just unreal to me right now," Costello said.

At his house on a hill near the Pentagon, John Croom, a 69-year-old retired Army staff sergeant was dumbfounded as he watched the smoke.

"I don't understand how they could do this. ...I thought Washington was protected," Croom said.

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