At the White House, Hamilton Jordan snapped his remote TV control buttons searching for news of the terrorism in Washington while a clerk in the mayor's command post began a log of the day's events on a huge wall chart:
"11:40 a.m. Police action on the scene."
At 2:30 p.m., officials gave up trying to keep their log. Events were moving too fast.
Capitol Hill Police, U.S. Park Police and General Services Administration guards watched as true and false reports flashed back and forth by telephone, on television and radio.
The Pentagon, the Secret Service and the State Department were all paying careful attention, but none took special action yesterday, accoring to spokesmen.
Metropolitan Police called up all available reserves to deal with the three terrorist strikes and in mid-afternoon the White House ordered the FBI into the case, although officials were unclear what if any, federal law had been violated.
The FBI said that it had been "instructed by President Carter to commence an immediate and vigorous investigation of all violations of federal law involved." But the D.C. police remained in charge.
White House Press Secretary Jody Powell, who had planned to take the day off to rest an injured knee, said White House and Justice Department were remaining in touch.
"What can be done by the federal government can be done by the Justice Department," Powell said. He declined to describe Carter's reaction to Washington's outbreak of terrorism.
Down the hall, presidential assistant Jordan expressed disbelief as he watched television reports of events unfolding in the city. About 4 p.m., he convened a meeting in his office attended by National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Powell, appointment secretary Tim Kraft, White House counsel Robert Lipshutz and deputy press secretary Rex Granum.
For the White House, Washington's crisis overlapped with Carter's promise to speak to Cory Moore in Cleveland after Moore released the hostage he was holding.
FBI Director Clarence Kelley received a call a few minutes after 11 a.m., about the time the Hanafi Muslims were moving toward their first target, the B'nai B'rith center.
Kelley, told the Ohio hostage was safe, pushed the button on his direct line to Attorney General Griffin Bell to relay the message to the White House.
Carter honored his promise by speaking with Moore at 4:13 p.m.
Jordon said the White House knew of no connection between the Ohio incident and the Hanafi Muslim action here.
The Commerce Department and D.C. Superior Court were the only government buildings evacuated.
Court officials expressed concern for the safety of Judge Leonard Braman, who presided at the 1973 Hanafi murder trials, and of others involved in the case.
Commerce Department Personnel Director John M. Golden started a partial evacuation at about 3:30 p.m. by sending home people who work on the 14th Street side of the building, which faces the District Building.
The GSA tightened security at buildings in the Federal Triangle by assigning additional guards, checking building passes more carefully as people entered and left buildings and instituting checks at buildings where none normally are performed.
GSA has 1,101 guards and patrol officers, a spokesman said. He declined to say how many extra guards had been called to duty.
U.S. Capitol Police Capt. Herry Grevey said the day shift about 230 officers was held over and metal detectors were in constant operation.
Additional U.S. marshals, police and Federal Protective Service guards were sent to the U.S. District Courthouse," Marshall George McKinney said.
That assault which did not come, was only one of the fears circulating during the afternoon.
Police at one point became alarmed that the Municipal Building at 300 Indiana Ave. NW, might become a target. It houses both the mayor's command post and police headquarters.
Civilian employees were sent home early.
In another precaution, the city's monuments were ordered closed lest they become new targets for the terrorism that fanned without warning from one to two and then to three buildings.
Mayor Washington was barricaded in his District Building office from the beginning of the terrorists' attack until he was brought under guard to his command post just before 6:30 p.m.
"We immediately hit the hot line and told him to secure his doors when he heard the shooting," Arlene Billings, a spokesman who was at the command center, said.
All City Council members were contacted from the command center's huge telephone console with its roughly 60 green and red buttons.
Council Chairman Sterling Tucker was on his way to the District Building when he was reached. He detoured to the command center and took charge along with the center's chief, George Rodericks. Councilman David Clarke also was at the center throughout the afternoon.
Jody Powell told reporters that the Metropolitan Police are one of the law enforcement agencies in the nation best equipped to deal with such a crisis.
Police officials were working frantically at the headquarters to keep up with the flood of information throughout the crisis.
"Look, we're swamped, we can't tell you anything," a homicide squad official said as he closed his office door on a reporter.
Police were stretched thin everywhere. The Washington Post asked for police protection after learning of the incidents and was told that no men were available.
Not knowing where, or if the terrorists might choose to attack next, police sought to eliminate some potential targets.
Montgomery County police said they increased patrols in the vicinity of Jewish schools and other institutions in the county as a precaution.
Inspector Charles M. Troublefield of the Metropolitan Police fourth district asked all synagogues and other conspicuously Jewish-owned buildings in the fourth district to close. The Hanafi Center, at 7700 16th St. NW, is in the fourth district and Troublefield said there were armed people inside the center late yesterday afternoon.
Since the Hanafi murders in 1973 a police officer has spied on the Hanafi Center by sitting in the office window of Rabbi A. Nathan Abramowitz at Tifereth Israel Congregation, across the street from the center, Troublefield said.
The surveillance officer said he observed nothing out of the ordinary at the center this week.