News & Politics

Timeline: Days of Fear in Washington

A look back at other events that have cast a pall over the region.

More people have died violently in Washington on a single day—most memorably on 9/11, and on the icy day in 1982 that Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge. But few events have kept a significant part of the city locked down as this morning’s shootings did the Southeast neighborhood around the Navy Yard. A look back at comparable events that have paralyzed DC or cast a pall over the city:

March 9 through 11, 1977: Members of the so-called Hanafi Muslim sect, who had split from the Nation of Islam, staged a siege over three days in downtown Washington, taking over three buildings—the B’nai B’rith headquarters, the Wilson Building (then called the District Building) and the Islamic Center of Washington—and holding 149 hostages. Two people, a radio reporter and a policeman, were killed; then (as now) DC City Council member Marion Barry was shot and wounded. The hostages were released after negotiations, helped by three ambassadors from Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran, who read passages from the Koran to convince the attackers to give themselves up.

December 8, 1982: Norman D. Mayer, a White House protestor, drove a van onto the grounds of the Washington Monument and announced it held 1,000 pounds of dynamite he planned to detonate. Several visitors were trapped in the monument, and many area buildings were evacuated. After a standoff of several hours broadcast citywide, Mayer was shot and killed in a barrage of police gunfire.

October 2002: They were called the DC snipers, but John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo attacked all but one of their 13 victims in Maryland and Virginia. Ten died, and three survived. The shooters were arrested after they were discovered sleeping in their car at a rest stop on Route 70 near Myersville, Md. (For more on the DC snipers, see the Terror in October feature from October 2012.)

March 4, 2010: A troubled 36-year-old California man opened fire outside the Pentagon, killing two police officers. Returning fire, the security detail wounded the man, who later died.