WHAT WAS IT LIKE, TO BE IN THE CAPITOL BUILDING ON THE DAY OF ASSAULT?
It seemed like an almost normal day when Associated Press Hill correspondent Andrew Taylor arrived for work at the Capitol the morning of January 6th. He had reported for duty there for 15 years, and his workspace was just steps away from the Senate gallery. On that Wednesday, according to Taylor, “there would be genuine news: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) finally telling Trump of the folly of trying to get Congress to overturn the will of voters — even though the outcome was clear weeks before the debate to certify Joe Biden’s election as President started.
“But I was at my desk”, Taylor said, “when the Senate suddenly gaveled out of session. I jumped to check it out. Soon instructions came for us to huddle in an adjacent chamber. ‘Lock the doors,’ the gallery staff was told. That’s the safe space.” So it was then when maybe a dozen reporters and aides in the gallery and virtually the entire Senate were huddled inside. Tight COVID-19 quarters despite our masks.
“The police were in charge. ‘Move away from the doors,’ they ordered. Staff was squeezed into a corner. High-ranking Senators like Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn), the incoming Senate Rules Committee chairwoman, provided an alarming update: reports of shots fired as pro-Trump mobs surrounded the Senate building.
“In the center aisle, right between McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), stood an officer with an identifying sash. His back was to us as he faced the center Senate door. He had a large file, it seemed, but he was trying to hide it. Behind him were three boxes holding electoral college vote certificates.”
Taylor then recounted how he and others were evacuated through a tunnel to a House of Representatives chamber. Eventually, an “all clear” announcement was made and they returned to their offices in the main Senate building.
The AP correspondent recalled: “I ran into parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, a beloved figure in the tight-knit Senate family. She and her colleagues had made sure the Electoral College certificates were safe. Their seizure by the mob actually would have delayed certification of the result — and she was supervising their return to the chamber. “When we returned to the Senate”, Andrew Taylor recalled, “a swarm of officers — SWAT-like FBI and Department of Homeland Security officers most significantly — guaranteed everyone’s safety. Scattered residue from pepper spray covered floors and furniture.”
The Senate resumed debate that evening to confirm the final electoral totals for the 2000 U. S. presidential election. The AP correspondent wrote that he and a fellow reporter finally left and returned home well after midnight. “Security was robust,” he concluded. It was a day I hope never to repeat.”
GLOBAL REACTION TO THE STORMING OF THE U.S. CAPITOL
As the Voice of America reported: “Mixed reactions of shock, sadness and sarcasm continued to be heard from around the world over the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump angry over his loss in November’s presidential election.
In the words of French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter: “What happened today in Washington, D.C., is not America. We believe in the strength of our democracies. We believe in the strength of American democracy.”
Pakistani Foreign Minister spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told reporters on January 7 that his government is following closely developments in Washington. “We are hopeful that the situation will soon normalize and would not in any way impact the ongoing transition process….”
India’s Prime Minister said he was “distressed” to see rioting and violence in the U.S capital, adding: “An orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue.”
AND BACK AT HOME, LOOKING AHEAD
The appeals for a peaceful transfer of power were joined by the presidents of two private volunteer organizations based in Washington but concentrating on U. S. advocacy abroad, Dr. Sherry Mueller of the Public Diplomacy Council (PDC) and Joel Anthony Fischman of the Public Diplomacy Association of America (PDAA). They called for “a recommitment of our country to restoring its credibility in the wake of the January 6 events.”
Journalist and USIA Director under President John Kennedy, Edward R. Murrow, phrased it best: To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible, to be credible, we must be truthful. Murrow had also admonished us to portray America, “warts and all”, understanding that our strength in large part derives from our capacity to publicly admit our mistakes and learn from them as we pursue our elusive quest for “a more perfect union”.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More