I am not sure I can put into words what we witnessed yesterday.
They were not protestors.
They are not patriots.
The people who tried overthrow the Capitol building and democracy are terrorists.
The Capitol and Halls of Congress go well beyond the physical structures. I have worked in those buildings for almost twenty years.
I came to Washington after the November 2002 election to work for a freshmen Tennessee Congressman. Most of us came to Washington from Tennessee with no congressional experience. We were all very new at this and in awe of our surroundings.
One winter night in early 2003, Congressman Davis asked us to put on our coats and follow him. He had something to show us.
We put on our coats and followed the Congressman out of our office and the Cannon House Office Building.
We followed him to the front steps of the Capitol, the side facing the National Mall.
When we got to the steps, we just stood there. No one uttered a word.
Finally, the Congressman told us to look around us. Look at this awesome Capitol that we have the privilege of working in every day.
We looked around and took in the awesome of the building before us. The lights still on in the Capitol dome.
As we stood there, he told us, “if we ever forget how awesome this place is, it is time to go home.” He reminded us about the respect, reverence, and incredible responsibility we had to our constituents back home.
We stood there, silent. The wisdom of his words was not lost on any of us.
Almost twenty years later, I remember his words and that night as if it were yesterday. I’ll never forget them.
I remember when the Iraq war started, the military came to our Congressional office to tell us to prepare for a retaliatory attack on the Capitol. They told us to have an emergency plan in place if one of us did not make it out alive.
It never crossed my mind our own citizens would attack Congress.
As I watched the carnage unfold at the Capitol, I texted my old boss and friends to see if they were safe. It reminded me of the attack we expected years ago that never happened.
Yesterday’s attack did happen, but our Congress, our government, and our democracy are still standing.