About 7:45 a.m. this morning, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hosted a bipartisan group of members of Congress for breakfast, a fire started in a kitchen on the third floor of the Pentagon. Members of the military and civilian employees quickly evacuated the building, leaving behind purses, wallets and other personal possessions. Nearly one hour later, employees were allowed to come in out of the cold, but three corridors were completely shut down... and remain shut down at this hour.
Corridors 1, 9 and 10 suffered smoke damage on the second, third and fourth floors, and now the first floor is flooding from overhead sprinklers. Pentagon officials tell NBC News that the building has had fires in the past, but this particular incident is unusual because it shut down nearly one-third of the building for an entire day.
The main corridors are packed with displaced people. And even though some offices have told employees to head home for the day -- keys, wallets and coats are still sitting behind in the cordoned-off area. Several thousand people evacuated when the alarms went off, and an estimated 2,000 of them still cannot get back into their offices. The Pentagon houses approximately 23,000 workers on any given day.
While no one was hurt in the fire, the incident was not without its tragedy for those of us who work here. The main food court was shut down all day long.