The shooting at the Washington Navy Yard is still an incomplete story. We don’t know what compelled Aaron Alexis to enter the Navy Yard with someone else’s ID and open fire on innocent people. It’s not yet clear if there was a second shooter, or if the man who’s ID he used was complicit in the Navy Yard attack. The final body count has not been definitively determined. However, we do have one piece of the puzzle is in place: eye witness accounts. Aaron Alexis fired indiscriminately at employees at the Washington Navy Yard, and some lived to tell the tale. Here are three eye witness accounts from people who nearly died in the Washington Navy Yard shooting:
“He was far enough down the hall that we couldn’t see his face, but we could see him with the rifle. He raised and aimed at us and fired, and he hit high along the wall,” said Terry Durham, an employee at the Washington Navy Yard. “The fire alarm went off, which, y’know, occasionally there’s a practice or a fire in the building, and immediately there was an announcement that there was a fire emergency in the building. But our fire wardens came running very quickly, yelling for everyone to get out of the building now. And that’s when we started moving.”
Another Navy Yard employee, Todd Brundidge, described a scene ruled by chaos with people frantically trying to escape.
"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.
“Everyone was running down the stairs, people were pushing, people were shoving, people were falling down. As I came outside, people were climbing over the wall, trying to get out over the wall.”
The most riveting, detailed story, however, came from Navy Commander Tim Jirus.
“We heard gunshots in the building on the fourth floor, which is where I work. They were kind of distant, like muffled, because they were further away than where we were at, and then we had people running in through our cubicle where we work at, telling us to get out of the building.”
With the shooter firing at Jirus from down the hallway, the man running next to Jirus was shot dead.
"He dropped in front of me. I took off after that….I guarantee you when I was running I was not looking back. I was running for my life.”
Though Jirus, as a Navy Commander, has seen dead bodies before, he said that the Navy Yard attack was a unique and jarring experience for him.
"Seeing somebody die in front of you, here where you work at, is more of a relationship of you talking to God or you realizing just how fragile life is," he said. "To hear gunshots and realize you were that close to being shot, it makes me like life a lot today. I'm going to hug my kids the next time I see them and have a good day."