Bird of prey trapped on Metro station escalator

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 14, 2009; 12:39 PM

It is the stuff of late-night horror movies, and for some it is a recurring nightmare. Somehow that escalator grabs a piece of you, pulling you into the depths. You are not alone. Everyone worries.

Hawks and falcons, perhaps, are an exception.

We can only surmise how a bird of prey got its foot stuck in the escalator in the Benning Road Metro station Monday, though we can report with some certainty that it happened, that a clamor of alarm was sounded, that fire and rescue units responded, and that through mechanical intervention the bird was freed.

Big birds rarely use Metro, but pigeons are not uncommon in the vast underground labyrinth. The stations are a bit warmer in the winter, a tad cooler in the summer and dry year-round. Most of all, however, for pigeons the stations are a source of food.

Before we go any further, it is important to note that consumption of food and drink is expressly banned on Metro, and there have been celebrated cases of enforcement when Cheez Doodle miscreants and their ilk have been arrested. Cracking down on pigeons, which usually are a hop or two ahead of the rest of us, has been deemed an unworthy pursuit for Metro Transit Police.

So, we can imagine that beady eyes were watching from above on Monday as a pigeon trailed along behind the crowd of morning commuters, grazing on bits and pieces of food spilling from pockets, pants cuffs and from the various postures people assume when trying to conceal edible contraband from the authorities.

As the pigeon ambled by the escalator, it's a fair guess that the falcon or hawk saw lunch and swooped down.

And then, oh no, your worst nightmare.

Commuters who might have watched in silence if, say, a small child got gobbled up in the escalator, shrieked and rushed to protect the bird.

Soon there were sirens. Rescuers swarmed down the escalator.

What will be remembered as a bizarre footnote to Metro's eventful year -- train crashes, bus accidents, tragic deaths -- was resolved fairly quickly.

A portion of the escalator was dismantled and the bird flew to a perch atop a gas station near the Metro entrance, perhaps with a slightly injured foot and certainly now wise to the treachery of the escalator.

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