It was an explosive situation at The Q&A Cafe today, literally, when ten minutes into my interview with Kojo Nnamdi there was a dramatic fury of water and light. Since my eyes were directed at Kojo I did not see precisely what happened, but first there was a watery sound, and then some hissing steam, and then the sprinkler exploded, knocking over one of the lights, which came flying toward the stage. It was all in a matter of seconds. The sprinkler appeared to fall out of the ceiling, leaving a gusher. Photographer Ben Droz, who was there, got these photos.
It all began smoothly enough. Kojo and I talked about his recent journey to Ethiopia and had moved on to discuss his own personal life journey, from Guyana to Canada to New York and to Washington, when BOOM.
Everyone remained relatively calm, but we evacuated the bar of the Ritz Carlton as alarms went off. The biggest issue was the water spraying down on the room. There was a scramble to protect cameras, smartphones, and other items in the path of the deluge. Thankfully, no one was injured.
The Fire Department came by but did not stay. The audience, including the Argentine ambassador and her husband, adjourned to the lobby, where one of the mangers, Heather Foster, passed out the cupcakes donated by Georgetown Cupcake. So, there was that. But they were planning to also serve a nice charcuterie platter, as this was a rare later afternoon Q&A (timed to meet Kojo's broadcasting schedule).
Kojo, near the trajectory of the falling light, remained relaxed. I jumped off the stage. Water poured out of the ceiling onto the liquor bottles, the bar and the floor. I remained at the hotel for an hour after the incident, and stepped back into the bar when they were cleaning up. It seemed only the ceiling was damaged in the area of the sprinklers. The TV may have got some water damage. Otherwise, it was a mopping up project.
Here's the charcuterie platter that never got served. (But it will, when we reschedule the interview, and I'll have that date ASAP. Come in a wet suit!)
Thank you to Heather and Allen Smith at the Ritz for taking care of everyone with comp'd parking and some glasses of wine. And also to the crew from District Cable Network, who got the brunt of the explosion but who also stayed calm.