WASHINGTON—The nation remained in a state of fear and panic this afternoon, following confirmed reports that hundreds of millions of Americans—nearly the entire population of the country—had fully and inexplicably lost consciousness for eight hours last night.

Places of business were shuttered and communication systems overwhelmed as Americans, emerging from disoriented hazes this morning, stayed huddled in their homes and frantically sought to contact loved ones following the bizarre mass event. All across the country, unnerved citizens reportedly turned to their friends, neighbors, and even strangers for comfort as they sought to help each other comprehend and regroup from the perplexing circumstances that left them debilitated and entirely insensate for roughly a third of a day, while government officials have scrambled to address the crisis and urge calm among Americans.

“While we are still actively gathering information on the events of last night, we can definitively state that for a period of between roughly six and nine hours, nearly every U.S. resident was completely immobilized and unconscious,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney in a hastily called press conference today, noting that even the highest-ranking members of the government, including President Obama and top officials in Congress and the Pentagon, fell victim to the perplexing phenomenon. “As a precaution, the president has mobilized FEMA, CDC containment teams, as well as our armed forces, because for all we know, this could very well happen again.”

“For the time being, we ask Americans to calmly shelter in place,” Carney added. “And if you see any fellow citizen falling back into this same incapacitated state, we urge you to do whatever you can to revive them.”

Based on thousands of citizens’ reports, the mass debilitation affected people of all ages, races, and genders in every town and city across the country. Though no definitive explanation for the occurrence has yet been reached, dozens of theories have been put forward by scientists and civilians alike, ranging from an airborne toxin, to a powerful shift in the earth’s natural magnetic force, to a terrorist attack, to an act of an angered God.

Regardless of cause, nearly every American interviewed relayed a similar story of the incident’s onset, recalling that at some point last night, they began to notice an alarming slowing of their mental faculties and a growing sensation of full-body fatigue. Sources said that as it progressed, the bizarre phenomenon left them struggling to keep their eyes open, even if they were actively watching a television show or reading a book, until eventually their bodies and minds, in their words, simply “turned off.”

Most citizens stated that the next thing they were aware of was finding themselves in the same exact location hours later with absolutely no memory of the preceding interval, with some individuals reporting feelings of sluggishness and confusion so acute that they momentarily had trouble recognizing their surroundings or recalling what day it was. Additionally, subsets of those affected described a strange, gritty crust forming around the edges of their eyes or a mysterious trace of saliva dried on their chin, apparently remnants of the unsettling catatonic state.

According to unsubstantiated reports, certain individuals may even have experienced a similar loss of consciousness later in the day for a period of up to 30 minutes.

“When I first regained my senses and found myself just lying there in my home, I thought it was something that had only happened to me,” said Omaha, NE resident Andrew Calhoun, noting that he immediately checked himself to make sure he was unhurt. “Then I noticed my wife and kids rubbing their eyes and groaning slightly as if they were emerging from a heavy sedation, too. I’ve never been so terrified.”

“It’s horrifying to think we were all just sprawled on our backs, completely motionless for literally hours,” Calhoun continued. “We had no sense of sight or hearing, no idea what was going on around us—it’s like we just lost those eight hours completely. It’s crazy.”

While most citizens reported having no memory whatsoever from the incident, a sizable percentage of the populace claimed to have been plagued by mysterious visions, with many such individuals recalling strange and sometimes terrifying scenes in vivid detail.

“I swear, while I was passed out, I had the most unsettling hallucination in which I, my boss, and an old friend from summer camp were all at my old childhood home—can you believe that?” said Seattle woman Valerie McComb, who appeared visibly shaken as she recounted the details. “And then at one point, and this is the most frightening part, my teeth just all fell out. How am I supposed to move on after such a horrific vision? Could it be an omen foretelling the future? Am I supposed to follow its instructions? I don’t know.”

At press time, streets across the U.S. were deserted and American life remained at a standstill, as most citizens were reportedly huddling at home with their loved ones in fear that the baffling occurrence might strike again. However, at least a small portion of the populace expressed their openness to experiencing the phenomenon again.

“Of course it was incredibly strange to black out for so long, but as weird as it sounds, I actually kind of enjoyed being in that vulnerable, incapacitated state,” 33-year-old Jacob Pressentein of Glen Ellyn, IL said. “In a way, I almost felt like I was in a more peaceful place. I actually thought it felt kind of pleasant.”

“And if I’m being honest,” he added, “I kind of wish I were back in that state right now.”