The U.S. Capitol was reopened Tuesday, May 26, 2 afternoon after having been evacuated for an hour in an apparent false fire alarm that sent hundreds of workers streaming from the seat of government.
“Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate the U.S. Capitol building,” a loudspeaker blared in a warning about 20 minutes after noon.
Some staffers immediately complied while others waited as officers were given conflicting information about who should leave. Initially, the evacuation was only ordered for the Capitol Visitor Center, which is the sprawling underground complex added to the Capitol a decade ago. But the order was quickly expanded to include the whole building.
The Capitol was fairly empty, with both chambers on a weeklong Memorial Day vacation.
Still, construction workers continued working on the exterior of the dome, which is facing a massive renovation, for another 20 minutes, when a series of sirens went off, followed by blasts on an air horn, and those workers began to make the climb down.
There was never a sense of urgency, unlike previous evacuations such as the 2011 earthquake that shook the region, and the 2004 incident when the airplane of a governor arriving for former President Reagan’s funeral went out of contact with authorities, who were on the verge of giving the order to shoot the plane down.
In that instance, staffers were hurried out of the Capitol with women told to take off their shoes, the better to run faster.
On Tuesday, two Scottish tourists, Steven and Leenne Robb, waited in a shaded area north of the Capitol while the building was shut down.
They had already been denied a chance to see the Pentagon with tour slots filled, and they didn’t realize they had to request a White House tour in advance, particularly as non-Americans.
The Capitol situation amounted to strike three.
“So we should be OK after this,” Mr. Robb quipped.
(via Washington Times)