Navy Yard workers recount terror and tragedy

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on September 17, 2013 at 6:48 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 17 at 6:52 PM

WASHINGTON — When workers pulled up to the Washington Navy Yard in an attempt to pick up their belongings on Tuesday, they were turned away from what is still considered to be an active crime scene.

But Katrina Ambrose couldn't leave.

"It's hard coming by here, and it's in my mind and that somebody can take a gun and shoot innocent people," she said.

Of the 12 people killed by alleged gunman Aaron Alexis on Monday morning, two were Ambrose's friends. — Sylvia Fraiser and Arthur Daniels.

"They had good personalities, always smiling and helpful," she said. "They were good people."

Daniels was a close friend; they had spent time in each other's homes.

"Arthur came to visit us all the time," Ambrose said. "We help each other out a lot. He has four kids, and wife and grandchildren."

Fraiser was the friend and co-worker Ambrose said she could always depend on.

"To see Sylvia's desk and to not see her there... it's going to be real hard," she said.

Ambrose was in Building 197 on the 4th floor at a co-worker's desk trying to send an e-mail. That mundane office task might have saved her life by putting her near a stairwell that proved to be her way out.

"I don't think I can come back to work this week," Ambrose said.

She felt safe working at the Navy Yard for the past 13 years, but not anymore.

"You just never know who is the bad guy," she said.

Suspected gunman Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth stole that peace from her. Now, she wants to see more security measures — from bag and vehicle searches to metal detectors.

"I thought security was tight enough that.... I don't know. I'm not understanding how he got into the building with a gun," Ambrose said.

Contract employee Sam Agger walks to work at the Washington Navy Yard. On Monday, it was business as usual — a meeting to discuss details on a Navy radar program.

"We were having a regular Monday morning meeting in a conference room in [Building] 197, 4th floor," he said.

Seconds later that meeting was interrupted by gunfire.

"There was a bang, and right outside of our room," he said.

Agger and his associates didn't think twice — their only goal was now survival.

"Putting a huge, heavy conference room table wedged up the door, locking the door, turning off the lights, cutting off the telephone line," he explained. "A couple people had dialed into our line. It was pretty much the worst day of my life."

After 45 minutes of terror, they heard another noise.

The good guys arrived to evacuate them, but on the way out, Agger concluded that others wouldn't make it home to their families.

"I looked at the carpet and there was lots of blood," he said. "Then we went that way and there was a lady lying on the ground."

It was a scene that left him shaken after later learning that 12 innocent people didn't make it out alive.

"Those of us that are able to speak and hug our families, we are the lucky ones," he said.

Agger has five children; one of them graduated from the University of Texas at Austin last spring.

Agger stopped by the Navy Yard on Tuesday to pick up his cell phone; all employees are required to lock them up.

He said he wants to come back to work, but he — like others — are asking questions about security and safety.

"It's a pretty secure system, but there's room for improvement," he said.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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