by Haroon Mokhtarzada , CEO

On September 1, 2010, James Lee walked into the Discovery Communication’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, with a gun and what appeared to be explosive devices strapped to his torso. Lee took three hostages and then spent hours in tense negotiations with the police.

But even before the story became national news, we here at Webs became unwitting, front-seat witnesses to the drama unfolding across the street. Our office is located on Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring–directly across the street from One Discovery Place.

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I actually grew up in Silver Spring. I went to Montgomery Blair High School, which is just up the road from our office. Over the years, I’ve seen the area get “Silver Sprung” from a somewhat-depressed suburb of DC to a vibrant community with a bustling outdoor shopping plaza and brand-new stores and restaurants.  This revitalization was driven in great part by Discovery Communications moving their headquarters here in 2003.

At around 1pm yesterday I was called out of a meeting to the sight of my staff, on their feet, noses pressed against the long bank of windows in our office. They quickly filled me in: police cars were lining Wayne Avenue and had blocked off all traffic. One coworker said he had heard what sounded like gunshots. I looked out the window and saw for myself how policemen with helmets, riot shields, and guns were approaching the Discovery building.

The Discovery building, which is L-shaped, has a big and beautiful sensory garden as its courtyard. It was surreal watching the policemen–and, soon, SWAT teams, ATF, and FBI agents–swarm through the garden’s trees, bushes, and flowers toward the building. We watched a team of what appeared to be police or military snipers take up position on the sidewalk.

We were notified that our building was on lockdown, which meant that we needed a building employee to escort us out if we needed to leave. We were told that we would not be able to get to our cars in our building’s garage until the police emergency was officially over.

Periodically, staff members would search online for information about what was happening, and would then post what they were seeing and learning to Facebook and Twitter. In the beginning, all we knew was that a gunman was in the Discovery building’s lobby. Then we found out that he had taken hostages, and that he might have explosives. Soon Webs employees were receiving phone calls from concerned family members and friends to make sure they were ok.

We also witnessed positive signs, like the evacuation of the Discovery building’s daycare center. We saw adults leading groups of small children–and babies in cribs–away from the building. We spotted what looked like batches of Discovery employees leaving through a side door. We were surprised by how calm they seemed.

Hours later, I was in my office when I heard two more gunshots. Everyone rushed to the windows and we saw someone lying face-down on the pavement outside Discovery’s lobby.  We thought he was a gunshot victim until policemen eventually cuffed him, and we realized he was probably one of the hostages.  Soon after, we heard the TV reports that it was over: Lee had been shot.

The drama continued with robots sweeping the Discovery building for explosives. The experts controlling the robots stood directly outside our building. Some of us weren’t able to leave the office and drive home until late in the evening.

One employee summed it up by saying, “though it is sad to know that someone died, I think that the right decision was made at the right moment to kill Mr. Lee and save the lives of the hostages.  My hat goes off to the Montgomery County police in how they handled things”.

The experience was unsettling, for sure, but the main feeling in the Webs office at the end of the day was thankfulness that our neighbors across the street at Discovery were safe. I personally saw this event as a stark reminder of how precious and temporal life is, and how we need to make the most of it, especially by cherishing those close to us–friends, family, and coworkers alike.

38 Responses

  1. Reply
    Sep 02, 2010 - 06:40 PM

    That must have been horrific for the poor people in the Discovery building. Glad it is over.

  2. Reply
    Sean Palladino
    Sep 02, 2010 - 06:42 PM

    That is a fantastically horrible coincidence of your office location. The photos are very interesting. Glad none of your staff were hurt.

  3. Reply
    Sep 02, 2010 - 07:43 PM

    So glad you all came out OK. My thoughts went immediately to my old Freewebs family when I got the first alert from our DC emergency ops center. Glad you posted this, Haroon.

  4. Reply
    Sep 02, 2010 - 10:33 PM

    Is the Webs Office ok???

    • Reply
      the Webs Team
      Sep 02, 2010 - 10:58 PM

      @Spirit: Yes, we are fine. Thank you for asking 🙂

  5. Reply
    Sep 02, 2010 - 11:00 PM

    Mahalo for sharing your story, it was heartfelt and it does take you back on precious life is!

  6. Reply
    Derwyn Ravello
    Sep 03, 2010 - 04:24 AM

    Its always the vibrant places that get hit events as these, it is a good to know that everything went well. Alot of my friends work in that area as well.

    I def. didnt know Webs had a office so local, makes me smile.

  7. Reply
    Mike (UKDEVILZ)
    Sep 03, 2010 - 07:10 AM

    thats terrible! hope you guys at webs are ok!

  8. Reply
    Sep 03, 2010 - 07:17 AM

    Kudos to the police for handling everything the way they did.

  9. Reply
    Sep 03, 2010 - 09:58 AM

    I saw it on the news yesterday,
    A lot of people here were kinda shocked why somebody would do that.

    Great job from the cops and from the webs team for taking these pictures.
    This could be used for later for education purposes.

  10. Reply
    Sep 03, 2010 - 12:05 PM

    Wow! Hmmm speechless glad you’re all ok. All that over animals (apparently).

  11. Reply
    Sep 03, 2010 - 01:30 PM

    I’m glad you are all OK. I can imagine that anyone who was somehow involved in this incident was (and still could be) really worried. I do hope that nothing happens like this again, nobody should be put under that much stress.

  12. Reply
    R Ogoh
    Sep 03, 2010 - 02:19 PM

    Sorry!to hear about this incident it must have been a very frightening experience.Thank God you are all OK.I hope such incident will not happen again that is not an experience one would want to witness again.

  13. Reply
    Sep 03, 2010 - 04:33 PM

    Did anyone get shot? Also glad to hear that no one on the webs team got hurt.

  14. Reply
    Dance and Devour
    Sep 03, 2010 - 04:53 PM

    You’d think something like this would happen at USA or A&E headquarters.

    –Seth C.

  15. Reply
    Disco Fever
    Sep 03, 2010 - 07:09 PM

    Wow! This Is Amazing!

  16. Reply
    Sep 03, 2010 - 07:21 PM

    Saw you guys on TV. Never saw Webs HQ before!

  17. Reply
    Sep 04, 2010 - 03:52 AM

    Well At least no-one, besides the guy with the bad intentions, was hurt If someone is gonna flip out please do it alone, not with a group of people that do not want to.

  18. Reply
    jamie valdez
    Sep 04, 2010 - 05:56 AM

    That must have been exiting, and scary at the same time. I really hope you are all ok. And they shot him? How sad that he died. (I`m glad he gotton what he deserved though)

  19. Reply
    Sep 04, 2010 - 11:59 AM

    Pleased to read you’re all ok. Sometimes we get a stark reminder of how our own circumstances could be so much worse than they are maybe that was one for you guys to take note of.

  20. Reply
    Sep 04, 2010 - 12:40 PM

    Thank God you are all OK.Please take care.We live in a world that we cannot know what will happen tomorrow.

  21. Reply
    Sep 04, 2010 - 01:56 PM

    hi to every one

  22. Reply
    Sep 04, 2010 - 02:08 PM

    I feel very sad that such a thing happened and worse of all, near the office of the great WEBS team. We thank God that there was no physical injury to any body, although the emotions of all those living and working around that area were tormented. In this modern world, everybody has to be on their guard at all times.
    Francis, Great Britain.

  23. Reply
    Sep 04, 2010 - 07:04 PM


  24. Reply
    tapash nath
    Sep 05, 2010 - 09:52 AM

    Its good to hear that all are ok. The situation is terrible, but far from india, the blog is too clear that it seems we witness the thing..

  25. Reply
    Sep 05, 2010 - 10:47 AM

    Thank God,the trouble maker was eventually taken out!

  26. Reply
    Sep 05, 2010 - 07:59 PM

    Francis well said.

  27. Reply
    Sep 05, 2010 - 10:13 PM

    We thanked that you guys are safe… Take care always…

  28. Reply
    Sep 05, 2010 - 11:10 PM

    Wow, this is pretty serious. Im glad everyone got away from there alive! 🙂


  29. Reply
    Sep 06, 2010 - 04:14 PM

    It is sad that things like this happen and that there are people who have no value at all for life, It’s a blessing that you and your staff were safe and my prayers are with those families who love ones had to endure this sadness.


  30. Reply
    Sep 06, 2010 - 07:02 PM

    Oh my god…wow, how terrible

  31. Reply
    Sep 07, 2010 - 02:07 AM

    Oh wow.. I’m just glad to hear that everything is okay. I mean it’s one thing for drama like that to happen, but in front of the building you work at?! O_O
    I’m just glad they just took care of it. But even knowing that someone was killed(even if it may have been Lee) could just give the creeps knowing someone died nearby.

    Lets just hope nothing like that ever happens around the building again.

  32. Reply
    Sep 07, 2010 - 02:59 PM

    That’s horrible that anyone was harmed or killed, no one knew in advance that Mr. Lee was planning anything? Sometimes people keep problems to themselves because they think no one else would understand or that they are the only ones suffering. Many seem to think they don’t have anyone they can talk to or they don’t want to talk to anyone close to them. I feel sad thinking about what Mr. Lee must have felt and was thinking to cause him to jeopardize the lives of other individuals. I agree we should cherish our coworkers and I know that through mutual respect that can be achieved.

  33. Reply
    Dandelion Gal
    Sep 07, 2010 - 03:04 PM

    Jeez. You sometimes hear about this kind of thing happening, and you see movies based on stories like this one, but… well, you never really take it seriously. This is really scary that you had to watch it happen. Glad no one was hurt, though it’s still depressing that Lee was shot..

    Hey, does anyone even know what this was about, why he did this? What were his motives, really? Any ideas?

  34. Reply
    Sep 07, 2010 - 03:07 PM

    i wish to all guidance who will guide us to make,we our webs so better!

  35. Reply
    Sep 07, 2010 - 08:12 PM

    Wow! That’s terrible! Glad everyone is okay!

  36. Reply
    Sep 08, 2010 - 02:06 AM

    man i hate people like this guy.

  37. Reply
    Sep 08, 2010 - 03:40 AM

    Life is an eternal quest about knowing oneself. It’s time to challenge yourself, to rediscover your hidden traits, talents, and tendencies. Several inconvenient questions, which you have swept under the carpet, might resurface. Here is a collection of “about me” quotes. Each noted author has revealed her or his unique qualities. When you read these “about me” quotes, you will find the inspiration to ask yourself “Is that true about me?”

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