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Lawmakers, media members at Capitol on Jan. 6 recall riots as anniversary approaches

Capitol Breach Jan. 6 riot
Posted at 10:21 AM, Jan 05, 2022

As the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol approaches, lawmakers and journalists who were in the building are taking time to recall the harrowing events of that fateful day.

Some of the lawmakers who were trapped in the upper House balcony are still recovering from lingering trauma.

"That is probably the word that I will remember about that day for the rest of my life more than any other," Rep. Val Demings, D-Florida, told The Associated Press. "I knew that meant that the police had somehow lost the line. And I also know, having been a former police officer, that they would have done everything in their power to hold that line to protect us."

Those lawmakers were the last group to be evacuated after the rest of their colleagues had been ushered out from the floor below.

"When I looked up, I had this realization that we were trapped," said Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo. "They had evacuated the House floor first. And they forgot about us."

The roughly three dozen lawmakers were evacuated safely, along with reporters and staff who were trapped with them.

The police just barely held off the rioters from getting inside. But in interviews with The Associated Press a year later, many of the lawmakers recall that they thought they were going to die.

"I think all of us, myself included, had images of a mass-shooting event," Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., told the AP. "It was terrifying in the moment."

Associated Press photographer J. Scott Applewhite was in the House chamber when the Capitol was breached. In some respects, he was the eyes of the world.

"After the evacuation order came, AP photographer Andy Harnik lingered and took many important images: lawmakers taking cover, and Capitol Police holding rioters at gunpoint," Applewhite wrote.

All these months later, he is still processing the events of Jan. 6 as a photojournalist and as an American.

When he thinks about it, Applewhite's ultimate assessment is this: The job of the photojournalist is to show people what they can't see on their own.

And to do that, journalists have to be there — as he was.

"The Capitol is where I work every day, and I am a familiar face to most police. When those on the chamber floor shouted up at me to get out, I told them I was fine and refused to leave. This is what we do: We stay and report," he wrote for the AP.