WASHINGTON - Thousands of workers streamed back into the Washington Navy Yard on Thursday, three days after a former reservist working at the site as a contractor opened fire with a shotgun on a cafeteria full of workers eating breakfast, killing 12 people.
The sprawling, walled complex, which covers about 16 blocks of the US capital, had been closed to all but essential personnel and those involved in the investigation into why 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, who died in a gun battle with police, mounted his attack.
A steady stream of workers entered the Yard through a security gate, swiping cards at a turnstile. A Navy guard checked IDs.
"To be productive we can't dwell on the past," said Justin Hoffman, 27, a civilian Navy IT worker, who had just emerged from the base and said security was heightened, with more guards visible.
Angelo Esposito, 60, an IT worker in the engine program, said the return to a workday routine felt "weird." "I used to think of this as a safe place," Esposito said.
Eric Schechtman, 56, a software engineer, said he had never anticipated a mass shooting at the Yard, where he has worked five years and which is less than two miles from the US Capitol. "You hear about mass shootings, they're usually somewhere else and they happen to someone else, far away," he said.
Alexis, a US Navy Reserves veteran, entered the base on Monday with a security clearance that allowed him onto military facilities to work as an information technology contractor.