(Left: L'Enfant Station in a more empty and peaceful time.)
As our train pulled into L’Enfant Plaza station the weight of the day descended. People lined the platform on each side of the train so that it was hard to disembark. Hoards of people, mobs of people were streaming every which way to get above ground. The escalators had been turned off, I suppose, to prevent anyone from falling or going against the grain, but not having them working presented its own problems. Those in wheel chairs, families with strollers were abandoning the elevator option and employing volunteers to carry family members up the stairs. Again, I can’t stress the good nature of all of these folks, in the face of real diversity at this point. We were underground. It was clear that it was going to take some time getting out. But we all had our eyes on the prize so we grabbed a hold of that stroller and heave ho’ed.
(Here's some Metro station art. Pepsi mooching off a good idea.)
For some reason we were diverted from the most direct exit out, to a round about, track change direction, up and over route that gave us full view of the struggles so many faced later in the day. News reports would define L'Enfant station as all layers of hell. I know that soon we'll see "I Survived L'Enfant station" t-shirts. All of the Metro lines diverge at this station, and as stated before, this was one of the stops on or closest to the mall. I'm sure many had in their plans, "Oh, we'll get off at L'Enfant and we'll be golden". So simple, so easy.
Getting out was not in anyway easy. There were wide open spaces where people could fan out and try to get ahead, but we were all funneled into bottlenecks that left one grasping at the coat of anyone in your party for fear of getting separated. I know at some point, I heard a collective gasp come from the crowd on another track. Did someone fall? Get sick? Then a calm female voice announced, “Ladies and gentleman, The Red Line is now closed at such and such station due to train malfunction. Please be patient.” Fifteen seconds later the same voiced announced, “Ladies and gentleman – the blue Line is now closed at such and such station due to passenger illness.” Joe and I looked at each other in wonderment. We were getting above ground just in time.