It started last Friday night at around 10 p.m. Karen Perrin was alone at her downtown Washington, D.C., office, working late to finish up some last-minute travel plans for her boss.
She called her husband, former Redskins Running Back Lonnie Perrin, to let him know she would be leaving shortly, worked for another 10 to 15 minutes and then made what she assumed would be a quick run to the bathroom before packing up her bags and heading out.
Perrin said she never could have expected what happened next.
After washing her hands in the women’s room, she went to open the door, but the handle would not budge.
“I thought, ‘Ah! This cannot be,’” Perrin told ABC News, describing the initial moment of panic. “It sounds crazy, but I went back into the stall and then washed my hands again hoping to change something.”
But when she reached for the latch for the second time, there was still no movement. She jiggled the handle. She kicked it with her boot. But it was to no avail.
“That’s when it hit me,” she says. “‘I’m locked in here.’”
Perrin spent the next eight hours locked in this bathroom without a cellphone.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she says, fighting back tears as she recounts the hours spent inside. “I felt hopelessness. I felt like I was going to die in there because of the anxiety I was feeling.”
Throughout the night, Perrin tried everything she could think of. She started taking paper towels and thrusting them under the door hoping that someone monitoring the surveillance footage would see the movement.
“I probably put 200 towels out,” Perrin recalls. “But after nobody came to rescue me I realized I had to do something else.”
She climbed on to a chair and reached an escape door in the ceiling. While she couldn’t hoist herself up, she found a 3-foot-long rod in there that became her escape tool.
She used the rod to chisel her way through the wall so that she could reach through the hole and open the door.
“I thought about ‘Shawshank Redemption,’” says Perrin, referring to the 1994 movie starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.
After two hours, layer by layer, through dry wall and insulation, Perrin finally broke through and created a large enough hole to fit her arm. She then reached out, grasped for the handle on the other side and opened the door.
“I came undone,” says Perrin. “I was crying. I felt like I was escaping a bad dream, like when you have a nightmare and you wake up and your heart is pounding and you realize, ‘Oh, I was just dreaming. Did that just happen. Am I OK?’”
Perrin immediately called her husband and daughter, India, who at that point were getting ready to go out searching for her.
While nobody knows yet why or how the door became locked, Perrin’s just happy to be at home, resting, and taking a few, well-deserved days off.