WASHINGTON – The Pentagon violently shook during Tuesday’s 5.9-magnitude earthquake in Arlington, Va., as thousands of employees and visitors ran full speed for the exits.
Reporters in the second-floor media filing center felt some initial swaying and as some quickly noted they had felt no “boom” to indicate any explosions (or ever-feared plane crashes) the walls began to roll back and forth more intensely, causing a rush for the doors.
A few stopped and returned to their desks to grab Blackberry's, purses and laptops.
There was no loudspeaker order to evacuate the building, but that's what many did, flooding into the parking lots. After about 15 minutes, Pentagon security officers began letting people back into the building.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in California today and was not in the building.
The earthquake broke open a water pipe inside the Pentagon, causing some flooding on the third and fourth floors between corridors three and four, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency announced over the building's emergency loudspeaker system. The flooding was stopped and repaired within the hour, but people have been told to stay away from the area.
Pentagon employees, from senior military officers to defense contractors and food court workers, are no strangers to disasters. Many of the roughly 23,000 people who work here survived the Sept. 11 attacks, and there are emergency evacuation plans posted throughout the building.
The mood since has been nervous but light in the outer rings where reporters work near the offices for the defense secretary and Joint Staff, and there are no further reports of building damage.
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