Thursday, December 5, 2013
When Jack Goldberg saw the news about Washington Navy Yard shooting victim Michael Arnold, his heart sank.
Goldberg, a Skowhegan native who worked on the third floor of Building 197 for 10 years before retiring three years ago, knew Arnold more than 20 years.
“He was like me, a project manager — an engineer,” said Goldberg, of Alexandria, Va. “He was a Naval Academy graduate. He worked on the third floor. He and his wife were married more than 30 years. They had two sons.”
Arnold was one of 12 people killed in a rampage Monday by gunman Aaron Alexis, 34, who was shot and killed by police.
Arnold, 59, of Lorton, Va., was a pilot and had been building a light airplane in the basement of his home, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
“I always saw him around,” said Goldberg, a 1969 Portland High School and 1973 University of Maine graduate.
Goldberg, 62, worked for Naval Sea Systems Command for 28 years, the last 10 at the Washington Navy Yard. He knows Building 197 like the back of his hand and was continuing Wednesday to puzzle over how someone could get into the building with a gun, as security is tight there.
Goldberg spent a tense couple of days earlier this week at his Alexandria home, watching the news and waiting to hear the names of the victims.
He and his wife, Lucy, had tickets to Tuesday night’s Washington Nationals game with the Atlanta Braves, and they ventured out to the stadium, which is 12 miles from their home and next to the Washington Navy Yard.
The experience actually was cathartic for the Goldbergs, particularly because the Nationals won, 4-0, Goldberg said Wednesday in a telephone interview.
The players wore Navy baseball caps and patriotic jerseys during warm-up, and a moment of silence was held at the beginning of the game, he said.
“Overall, it seemed like a real huge healing process for the people there, and the mood was of everyone coming together after a tragedy and being friendlier and nicer to each other,” he said. “It was like everyone was feeling a sense of relief. You could feel it in the air.”
Goldberg and his wife had good seats behind the Nationals dugout.
“The game was sort of a dedication to the Navy and the victims, in a sense,” he said. Patriotic messages were highlighted on the scoreboard, he said.
The Nationals also won an earlier game at 1 p.m. Tuesday — a game that had been postponed from Monday night, he said. The stadium lot was used Monday by police, FBI and others as a staging area for their investigation; and areas were set up for families and others as rendezvous points, Goldberg said.
Before Tuesday night’s game, Goldberg parked his car at Building 197 and walked with his wife to the stadium. The Navy Yard was eerily quiet, and the only activity they saw were news crews reporting on the shootings, he said.
The event also struck close to home when Goldberg saw another friend and former fellow worker, Patricia Ward, interviewed on the news and quoted in newspapers. She was not hurt in the incident.
Ward, a logistics management specialist, once was Goldberg’s secretary, he said. She was in the building’s cafeteria Monday when the shots rang out. She and others started running from the scene.
“She (Ward) was all over CNN and I heard her on the radio,” Goldberg said. “I knew her well.”
He said he also recognized a photo of a man killed in the shooting — Vishnu Pandit, an Indian-American defense contractor.
“I didn’t really know him that well, but I recognize his face,” Goldberg said.
Goldberg worked in Building 197 during the Sept. 11 attacks. Memories of black smoke billowing from the Pentagon office came flooding back as Monday’s tragedy struck.
“It’s not quite the same thing as 9/11, but it’s the closest thing I’ve ever experienced,” he said.
Amy Calder — 861-9247