An e-mail from the building's management was sent at 3:27 p.m. asking tenants to be aware of suspicious people or packages because of a "potential biological threat."
After a while, employees inside Kreger's office grew bored. One of them opened a bottle of white wine that was left over from a holiday party. Others watched television and played video games.
Workers in Baileys Crossroads sign personal information papers in a hallway between two buildings during the lockdown.
(Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)
As the evening wore on, apprehension and fear set in.
"Ever since Sept. 11, I've been more aware," Kreger said about three hours after the building was locked down. "It's definitely creepy."
An announcement came over the building's intercom about 8 p.m. directing employees to the bathrooms on their floors. They were told to wash their faces and hands.
The hot water was quickly used up, Kreger wrote in an e-mail a few minutes later. "People are starting to get a bit worried -- as am I," he wrote. "People in the halls don't even want to touch the door knobs to get back into our offices."
At 8:30 p.m., Kreger's office, on the seventh floor, was allowed to leave.
Castillo said that about 3,000 people work in the three buildings that were locked down and that as many as 800 were inside when an air filter designed to detect foreign agents was activated.
An alarm sounded, and moments later, hazardous materials crews responded to the scene, with between 30 and 40 emergency technicians combing through the eight-story building to conduct tests, he said.
Kreger and all those who left the building were given a sheet of instructions from the Fairfax County Health Department. They were told to wash their hands, face and other exposed skin, as well as jewelry and eyeglasses. They were to go straight home, take off their clothes and put them inside a plastic bag, which they were told to tie tightly and keep in a safe place. They were to shower and shampoo their hair.
But before leaving the building, all of those who were locked down were asked to fill out a detailed form that questioned them about their location inside the building. They were told to await further instructions from their bosses or the health department, including whether they will need medication.
Pentagon employees who may have come in contact with the mail also were being advised to take precautions, including providing nasal swabs for cultures and being provided with a three-day regimen of antibiotics. The irradiation to which the mail is subjected is designed to kill anthrax spores. Although the most recent reported tests at the Pentagon were negative, officials said they intended to conduct more detailed analysis as a precaution.
A source familiar with the events said officials were concerned with the Pentagon's decision to distribute antibiotics to its mail workers without the knowledge of local officials dealing with the Fairfax incident.
Staff writers Spencer S. Hsu, Tim Dwyer and Martin Weil contributed to this report.