- Congress and others are still recovering from the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
- Many lawmakers and staffers had to make split-second decisions as the siege unfolded.
- Insider interviewed 34 people who lived through that day for an exclusive oral history.
Rep. Andy Kim, a New Jersey Democrat, called his wife to tell her he loved her just like he did during a close call when he was working in Afghanistan.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth made a split-second decision to hide alone with a staffer, fearing to use Capitol escape routes ill-designed to accommodate wheelchair users.
A Metropolitan Police Department officer described being beaten back and crushed by a mob, only to be finally knocked out by a perfectly-timed blast of bear spray. Photojournalist Alan Chin thought of his 7-year-old daughter as an angry group of Proud Boys surrounded him.
On January 6, for the first time in more than 200 years, a mob sieged the US Capitol, an event that still has survivors and the nation reeling many months later.
As millions of people around the world watched, a horde of pro-Trump rioters hell-bent on stopping the certification of the 2020 election results breached the Capitol, overpowered the ill-prepared police, and defaced the building-all the while halting one of the nation’s most important rituals for the peaceful transfer of power.
In the end, Congress affirmed Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump. But the mental, emotional, and legal stain lingers. More than 600 people have been charged in the attack. A special committee in Congress is also investigating – and demanding that Trump associates and officials testify.
That’s why Insider embarked over the past several months on an oral history project to document a heart-wrenching and visceral moment in the nation’s history. We compiled the accounts of 34 people – members of Congress, journalists, photographers, law-enforcement officers, Capitol Hill staff, and others – who recalled the harrowing day in vivid and visceral detail.
Their stories laid bare the fear that took hold in the halls of Congress that day, as members and their staffs barricaded themselves in offices, and called or texted their loved ones to say goodbye, in case they didn’t make it out alive.
What we learned is just how much the day still haunts the people who experienced it, in ways both psychological and physical. A Metropolitan Police Officer, granted anonymity to allow him to speak candidly without risking his job, told Insider his fellow officers still sneeze in the locker room as they put on their gear due to residual tear gas, and get burned by pepper spray.
“To this day I’m still getting burned from stuff on it,” the MPD officer said.
Janitorial staff, journalists, and members of Congress say they still wrestle with memories of that day.
In addition to the oral history, Insider has also written about how Capitol Hill staffers’ safety took a backseat to that of lawmakers, taking you inside the moment the Capitol Hill neighborhood resident found a pipe bomb, talking to the reporters and photographers stayed safe-and on the beat-amid the chaos.
Check out the full January 6 oral history, and our additional stories here:
- Capitol Hill workers say January 6 chaos reminded them that the police are only there to protect the big shots.
- The Washington DC resident who found a pipe bomb on January 6 initially thought it was something to recycle.
- Congress members in lockdown on January 6 say they didn’t realize how ‘bad’ the insurrection was until ‘much later’
- Sen. Angus King fled to his office instead of the designated secure location on Jan. 6 over COVID concerns: ‘I’m not staying in here’
- A DC police officer gives a full account of battling insurrectionists on January 6: ‘It was like guerrilla warfare’