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Witness To Navy Yard Shooting Describes 'Surreal' Experience

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Long-time Navy Yard engineer Doug Hughes describes the shooting as 'surreal.'
Martin Di Caro
Long-time Navy Yard engineer Doug Hughes describes the shooting as 'surreal.'

As the FBI continues to investigate the possibility of a second shooter in the attack at the Washington Navy Yard, witnesses of the event are trying to come to terms with what they saw and heard.

As it became clear that the incident, punctuated by "pop-pop-pops," was more than just a drill, Navy Yard engineer Doug Hughes says seniors chiefs ran in and told them shots had been fired and they needed to hunker down. Hughes found an office with a locking door, where he hid under a desk and tried not to think about what could happen to him.

Hughes described the situation as disorienting, since no information was immediately available to employees inside the building.

"You have no idea what's going on, you have no idea if you should be scared or not or what the heck," Hughes says.

Amidst the chaotic scene, Hughes was struck by an odd and particular observation.

"The stupid fire alarm had come on, which is an announcement — an automated announcement — it kept repeating itself over and over and over again," Hughes says. "I just kept praying that somebody would turn the damn thing off."

It's not clear whether the shooter Aaron Alexis had access to the building through his work as a Defense Department subcontractor or by an ID he had that belonged to a former Naval employee found on his body. Either way, Hughes says he considers security in the building to be excellent.

"I've never had any cause to complain or worry about it," Hughes says.

His hands were still shaking hours after the guns were silenced.

"It is kind of surreal when you're in it. You just have no idea what is going on, whether you should be scared or not," he says.


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