I have seen wedding photos taken, snowball fights and sledding, picnics and concerts on the lush grass, and the inauguration of the leader of the free world. These are some of the beautiful and inspiring things that I have participated in and witnessed at the U.S. Capitol over 25 years of working and living in Washington, D.C.
In those 25 years, I lived through a lot of different events, but I thought and even dared to hope that the horrific experiences of 9/11 and the threat of an airplane hitting the Capitol dome were the worst things that could ever happen to such a sacred building. I was wrong. Dead wrong. On January 6, 2021, a mob made of domestic terrorists besieged the Capitol building while members of Congress, their staffs, and Capitol building staff were inside, resulting in the deaths of six Americans.
It has taken me days to write this column, partially because I have spent a good amount of time calling my friends and former colleagues to ensure they are okay. And partially because I am really damn mad.
In calls to my friends, most of those minutes were spent listening to their experience, what they saw, heard, and even smelled last week. They were scared. It was chaotic. It was frenetic. One friend hid in the darkness of a supply closet behind a stack of brooms and rolls of hand towels in case someone opened the door. He was alone for 6 hours until police cleared the building. When they knocked on the door to notify him, he did not trust that it was the police. They had to convince him it was safe to come out. Another close friend is a plain clothed Capitol policeman who recently had a baby. As the day unfolded, he was not able to call his family and tell them that he was okay for almost 22 hours.
The young staffers and Hill veterans who went to work in that sacred building all have stories like this. They come to DC and work on Capitol Hill because they love their country and want to serve. We all have a deep love for America and our democracy, and still do. That is why the events of last week were so violating and savage. And it is why I am still so damn angry.
I am angry because I watched someone walk around the Capitol with zip ties in their hand. I watched someone break through a window to get in, while the crowd behind him chanted to hang the Vice President who was inside the building. I watched a policeman be killed with a fire extinguisher. These are not things that happen without intent, support, and instruction. The U.S. Capitol is the home of democracy and the mob affronted the house.
The President of the United States is responsible for this insurrection. His language, lies, and call to action was a ruthless abuse of power – climaxing in the deaths of six Americans and the desecration of the United States Capitol. He must be held accountable. He must be stripped of all benefits. He must be impeached. He must be convicted and removed.
My former boss, U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan would frequently begin his speeches by talking about his daily drive to the Capitol. As the awe and grandeur of the dome came into sight every workday, he felt immense gratitude that a man from rural beginnings in Regent, ND had the opportunity to work in this magnificent building. I loved those opening lines because I knew exactly what he meant. I felt that pride as well, and I am proud to have been a speck of dust in the history of those halls. The U.S. Capitol represents a beacon of democracy and freedom across the world, and we must deliver justice to those responsible for the attack on the home of democracy.