Monday, September 16, 2013

A shooting in an almost-familiar place

Most of Monday, after I heard about the mysterious shooting at the Navy Yard, I kept thinking that the shooting had occurred in the place I used to go with colleagues for lunch at the Officer's Club. I was working at Coast Guard Headquarters at 400 Seventh Street SW, only a mile or two from the O Club. I went there a few times with fellow officers for a sandwich before heading back to the office. I also went there for farewell dinners or lunches a couple of times when colleagues retired or were reassigned to other duty stations.

It was not until late in the afternoon that I realized that the shooting had occurred at the Navy Yard on the D.C. side of the Anacostia River. The Officer's Club and Post Exchange I had visited several times was in the Navy Yard Annex, across the river from the Navy Yard. We had to drive across a bridge that took us straight into the Annex. So that was why the photos of the crime scene looked vaguely unfamiliar. That, and the fact that my memories were of a time now 40 years ago when I was a young Coast Guard officer assigned to the Enlisted Personnel Division as a letter writer to answer correspondence about Coast Guard personnel. Other than the PX and the O Club, I don't know what was at the Navy Annex. I never had reason to visit anyplace other than those familiar haunts.

Still, a shooting at a secure Navy base, wherever it might be, is unsettling. Security at the Annex was not tight, as best I can remember. A guard would wave us in upon seeing the military sticker on the car's windshield or bumper. I don't recall any armed guards in the complex itself. But that was long ago, and security has to be tighter now, just as it is in military and government campuses everywhere after 9-11. As the president said, military personnel expect to put their lives on the line in combat assignments, but not while they're eating lunch in a quiet, secure corner of the District of Columbia.

I hope investigators can unravel the mystery of this morning, but some actions are so irrational they are inexplicable. Maybe this one will fall into that category.

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