House Democrats gathered for more than two hours to commemorate their experiences of being in the House chamber during the violent Jan. 6, 2021 attack.
Members shared their firsthand and deeply emotional stories from that day. They were joined by the parents of slain Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, Charles and Gladys Sicknick.
Many shared the shock and horror they felt while in the chamber, and both the physical and emotional bruises that they experienced. Many thanked Rep. Jason Crow who as a former Army Ranger took charge during the attack and helped members in the gallery put on their gas masks, instructed them to talk off their member pins, and stay calm.
All agreed that Capitol and DC Metro police are the reason they are all still alive today.
“Those of us trapped in the gallery, we lived it,” Lisa Blunt Rochester said. “Ducking and crawling over and under railings, hands, knees, the sounds, the smells, we had a front row seat to what lies, hate, or plain old misinformation conjures. We went from victims to witnesses and today we are messengers.”
Rep. Dan Kildee held up a piece of broken glass he found on Jan. 6 during the attack that he says he has carried with him every day since to remind him of the “brutality” of that day” and the need for truth about what happened.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal recounted how she was prepared to use her cane, which she had as the result of knee replacement surgery, as a weapon against the rioters.
Rep. Sara Jacobs, who had only been in Congress for four days and did not even know how to get to the House floor, talked about how she still hears the buzzing of the gas masks.
Rep. Colin Allred said he took off his suit jacket on the House floor, the first time he had ever done that, was “ready to try and defend our colleagues from whatever was going to come through those doors.” He talked about how he was afraid he was never going to meet his son, who was not due to be born for another few months.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro choked up when she shared how she called her husband while lying on the House floor after hearing a gunshot. She said she lied and told him she was okay instead of saying I love you “because it harkened back to September 11 and those last calls.”
“Trapped in the gallery, with my colleagues so many of them here today, we held onto one another. We watched out for one another. We made sure that we could get over the railings, or under the railings” DeLauro said, recalling that fellow Democrat Marcy Kaptur made a joke that it was a little like doing the limbo.
Many members reflected on how the threat to democracy has still not subsided.
“Jan. 6 is not over. Jan. 6 is not behind us. The threat and the lie that fuels that threat continues to rear its head in other forms” Kildee said.
“The challenge with today for me is that we are not marking something that is over and done with. The danger is still clear and it is still present” Jayapal said.
Hinting that she believes there is more to be revealed about what happened that day, Rep. Annie Kuster said, “America does not yet know just how close we, the members here in this room today, our nation, and our democracy came to our demise that terrifying day.”
Rep. Crow shared that growing up he felt “that democracy was inevitable” but “we’ve now all learned that that is not true.”
While much of the event was focused on somber reflections, members also shared how this horrific experience brought them together. The members who were in the gallery on Jan. 6 have formed a group that they call the gallery group which has become very tight knit over the last year. And many talked about how despite what they experienced, Congress still persevered to certify the election.
“I don’t think people will remember that we had to evacuate the House floor. I hope they won’t. Or not only that maybe. I hope they’ll remember that we came back,” Allred said.