Tahoe delegation sees destruction first-hand | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe delegation sees destruction first-hand

Robert Stern

From the fourth floor of the U.S. Capitol building Tuesday morning, Dennis Cocking, public information officer for South Tahoe Public Utility District, said he could see smoke billowing from the Pentagon building.

Cocking, his wife Tami, and Duane Wallace, board president of STPUD, were in the capital waiting to meet with Congressman John Doolittle.

Alarms went off, and the building was immediately evacuated.

“Outside it was something like Tel Aviv,” Wallace said.

The group was in Washington D.C. seeking funding for issues pertaining to MTBE. Methyl tertiary butyl ether is an oxygenate used to make fuel combust more efficiently. They arrived Saturday and met with several government officials on the issue Monday, but the meeting with Doolittle never happened.

“There was a panic in the air from the people around us, especially the congressional staffers,” he said.

Wallace said the streets were full of people walking and traffic was gridlocked. Police, U.S. Marshalls toting guns and body armor and what appeared to be Secret Service on rooftops were visible everywhere. Many people were making calls on cell phones, but it was nearly impossible to get a connection.

“Everyone who had a cell phone had it to their ear,” Cocking said.

The group tried to call relatives but were unable to get through until returning to the Washington Renaissance Hotel on Ninth Street.

Cocking said the four of them walked back to their hotel, which was located about 15 blocks away. They tried to avoid potential targets, which seemed to be everywhere and walked out into the open lawn in front of the Capitol. Passing the Pentagon, they saw a plume of smoke and heard an explosion, which they thought was a secondary blast from the initial attack. They heard airplanes flying overhead and were scared that one would fly into another building.

“It was like watching a disaster movie unfold in front of you,” Cocking said.

Wallace said they packed, but booked another night in the hotel. They had planned on returning to Lake Tahoe Wednesday, but are waiting for further notice. All airports in the nation have been closed.

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