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Suspicious packages cause alarm at Union Station

(The following article by Clarence Williams and Allan Lengel was posted on the Washington Post website on July 21.)

WASHINGTON -- Police evacuated Union Station last night after bomb-sniffing dogs reacted to three suspicious packages, triggering train delays as far north as Boston, authorities said. After more than two hours, the packages were found to be harmless, containing food and clothing.

The discovery shortly before 8 p.m. of a suitcase, a garbage bag and a box in the station's lost and found area disrupted the schedules of about 10 Amtrak trains. Some people on local trains were forced to get off at New Carrollton and Alexandria, and restaurants and bars in the station were closed as the building was evacuated.

Employees and anxious travelers waited in the wilting heat outside the station as police, firefighters, bomb technicians and members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force converged to examine the packages and secure the area.

D.C. police Cmdr. Cathy Lanier, who heads the department's office of homeland security, said that after two bomb-sniffing dogs reacted to the bags, bomb technicians X-rayed the bags and said it was safe to reenter the building shortly after 10:30 p.m.

Christine Tadros, a State Department employee heading home to visit family in Providence, R.I., shared tidbits of information and rumors with other delayed travelers.

"I just want to be asleep on the train," Tadros said.

When asked how long she had been outside the station, she said, "About an hour, but it feels like a lot longer."

Some restaurant workers from the Thunder Grill in Union Station got tired of waiting and fetched a deep-dish pizza from down the street.

"We work inside, and we're hungry," Chris Jacquette said.

Friday, July 21, 2006

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