WASHINGTON (`) – Around three dozen Democrats were trapped in the Gallery of the House of Representatives on Jan. 6 after the rest of their colleagues were evacuated and ducked under their seats as supporters of then-President Donald Trump besieged the siege.
The uprising interrupted the confirmation of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. The Democrats could not leave as rioters surrounded the chamber and tried to break the doors down.
The Capitol Police eventually evacuated the group unharmed, and Congress resumed the election count that evening. But many say the trauma of the experience remains.
In interviews with The Associated Press, 10 of the lawmakers in attendance described their experiences at the House gallery and the aftermath:
Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, who posted video updates on Twitter:
“A policeman came down and told us the Capitol had been breached and we should get the gas masks out). Having a Capitol Police Officer was breathtaking. … It was so unusual that I started recording something that happened when I was quite afraid of what was going on and what was going to happen here. And this video reflected the sobriety of the moment and simply the uncertainty we all faced. “
Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the special committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol said:
“I didn’t know exactly how serious it was until I got a call from my wife who said, ‘Where are you?’ I said, ‘I’m in the Capitol.’ She said, ‘Don’t you know they’re breaking in?’ So you know it won’t be registered. I said, ‘You mustn’t break in. I mean, there are police out there and barricades and a lot more. ‘ She said, ‘But I’m watching people climb over the wall and break into the Capitol.’ And around that time someone said, ‘Put your gas mask on.’ “
Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, recovering from knee replacement surgery:
“It was terrifying. Someone (in the gallery) said, ‘Do you have a key? Does anyone have a key to the doors? ‘ Because we didn’t know if the doors could be locked. So I focused on planning my escape in case I had to get out. I stretched out on the floor because I couldn’t bend my knee. I’m not even sure how I got from the chair to the floor – I think I rolled – so I was stretched out with my gas mask in one hand and my cane in the other. … I wasn’t sure I could get up off the floor, but I had a whole plan that I would hit an insurgent in the knee with the gas mask and then with the stick in the other knee. What I was worried about is, you know, would we get out? Would we survive Did you want to pursue us? “
Colorado Rep. Jason Crow, a former Army Ranger who completed three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan:
“So I started looking at this tactically. You have to bring everyone together, have to get into a defensive position. You don’t want people to spread out. You don’t want people to be pulled away by a mob – you need to band together in a tight group. As we moved to it, I heard the shot (which killed Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter). And of course I heard a lot of gunshots in my day and it was very clear what that was. And it came from the speaker’s lobby that said to me – I didn’t know if it was an officer or a member of the mob, but I knew things had escalated seriously. … It also told me that we were completely surrounded. “
Florida Rep. Val Demings, Former Head of the Orlando Police Department:
“My police career was on my mind because I came from a job where I went to work every day because I thought I might not make it home. I used to tidy my apartment or house before going to work and thought, okay, if I get killed today I don’t want my co-workers to come to my house to get my gear and see it all. And in order to be there and think in this moment – really in the middle of total chaos – I reserved the fact that I might die today. But I’m like a cop. I’m doing the right thing here, protecting and serving my nation by being here for this process, a peaceful transfer of power. “
Connecticut Representative Jim Himes:
“We probably didn’t understand how violent it got until the Capitol Police started moving furniture in front of the main entrance. … In this world of massive security devices, will it be a desk from the 19th century with a door that will save my life? Are you kidding me? And, I mean, seriously – I sat and thought, oh my god, you know, we spend billions and billions of dollars on satellites and guns and guns and aircraft carriers and artificial intelligence. This is going to be a damn desk that will save my life? “
California rep. Norma Torres:
“I really thought we weren’t going to be evacuated. We are going to die here. And you know, during this process – I think about it a lot now, (Democrats) plus three majorities … You could either take three members hostage or kill three members at any time and that would have prevented us from confirming the election. “
New Hampshire Representative Annie Kuster:
“In all fairness we thought we were being followed (while we were evacuating). And my son called halfway through the tunnel and said, ‘Mom! Mummy!’ – he’s watching himself on TV. And I said, ‘I’m alive honey, I can’t talk right now, we’re running for our lives. I’ll call you back in a minute. But I’ll be fine. ‘”
New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a retired Navy helicopter pilot:
“I remember the hallways were quiet (when we evacuated). I listened so carefully because I was so scared that we would turn the corner and the rioters would come … look carefully around the corners as we try to leave the building. And listen so carefully to hear – is there anyone in front of us? Is that a safe course? Is that secured? “
Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley:
“We were told in our security briefing that the threats have quadrupled. You know who we are. Our addresses are publicly known. We all go to public events in the district every day. … I think there is a feeling that they can get you if they want you. But you have to do the work, don’t you? … We had to go back and vote that evening because you can’t let these people win. You can’t be afraid. I don’t want any of them to think I’m scared. We will continue to work. If they want to commit acts of terrorism, I just can’t let that stop me. “