Authorities Explode Bag Near Union Station
Thursday, August 10, 2006; 3:34 PM
The doors to the main entrance at Union Station have reopened after being shuttered for several hours today because of a suspicious package near the station.
Police exploded a black canvas bag in the traffic circle in front of the station shortly after noon. They later said the bag and its contents were not dangerous.
Authorities had closed Union Station to vehicular traffic and locked the doors facing the circle after receiving a call about 9:30 a.m. of a suspicious package. Metropolitan police, D.C. Fire, U.S. Park Police, and Capitol police bomb squad officers monitored the station throughout the morning and supervised the reopening of the front doors early in the afternoon.
All roads leading to Union Station were closed to vehicles, and the traffic circle was cordoned off with yellow police tape. Both Amtrak and Metrorail service continued during the incident, and passengers and shoppers were allowed to enter the First Street door and walk through the underground Metrorail station.
The sight of the emergency vehicles caused confusion for numerous would-be travelers who mistakenly believed the entire station was closed. Jack Huntington temporarily gave up on a planned business trip to New York when he saw the scene on the walk from his Capitol Hill home. A cell phone call to his wife, who was listening to radio reports, confirmed that the station was indeed open.
"It's massively inconvenient, but you get used to it after a while," Huntington said. "It's nice to know the police exploded the package before it exploded on its own."
Sgt. Scott Fear, spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, said officers from the Metropolitan police and other officers also responded to the call. The D.C. fire department was dispatched at 10:17. The Capitol police bomb squad was brought in to blow-up the suitcase.
Police are continuing to investigate, Fear said.
Inside, many travelers who had ridden Metro to the station said they were unaware that anything was happening outside. Tamara Johnston, who was on her way to see her mother in Boston, said she was already nervous to travel today because of news of the thwarted terrorist plot.
"It's cheaper to fly, but I don't like to fly" after terrorists used jetliners for their attacks on Sept, 11, 2001, Johnston said. "Today I don't want to take the train either, but I need to get to Boston."
But others said that neither the suspicious package nor the terrorist threat made them more nervous to travel. Anita Walther bought a ticket for the 12:05 train to New York and planned to catch a flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport home to Los Angeles.
"I think it's much ado about nothing," she said, adding that she was anticipating long delays at the airport. "Hearing that they caught someone before they carried out a terrorist attack should make us more at ease, not less."