sunny.png
Thursday June 17th, 2021 1:48PM

'Safest place in Washington' no more. A reporter's disbelief

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — I still can’t stop watching the videos.

There are so many of them, each with new clues about what happened a week ago today in familiar corners of the sprawling U.S. Capitol complex. Thousands of insurrectionists outside calling for a revolution. Images of broken windows and defaced relics. My own raw footage of the chaos in the House chamber. And of course the heroic Capitol Police officer who appeared to lead a mob away from the Senate doors by himself as they advanced up a staircase I have climbed so many times.

In the last week, I have pored over the images again and again, muting videos if my children are nearby, pausing and rewinding. Finding new details.

I still can’t believe it happened. But it did, and the videos are the terrifying proof.

I want to piece it all together, to better understand my own experience that day as hundreds of angry rioters supportive of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to protest his defeat in the election. At the time, I was convinced I would be OK even as I ducked on the floor in the upper gallery of the House chamber with members of Congress and other reporters.

It’s now clear from the footage that there were rioters close to breaching at least three separate entrances of the House as we waited, the last group left in the chamber. Below, at the main entrance, we could see police keeping them out with a furniture barricade, shouting with their guns drawn, and broken glass in the door. What we didn’t know then was that on the other side of the House, rioters were also breaking the glass doors of the ornate speaker's lobby, a frequent gathering spot for members and reporters. We did hear a gunshot as an officer shot one of them, dispersing the crowd. The woman struck by that bullet later died.

When we were finally taken out of the House gallery, police leading us quickly down a grand stairway, we passed another group of at least six intruders laying on the floor, officers over them with enormous guns pointed down. It appeared that they had been close to the area where we had waited.

Just an hour earlier, as TV reports started to come in about the insurgents outside, my mother sent me a text telling me to stay safe. I told her I was sitting in the press gallery overlooking the House chamber, covering the counting of electoral votes.

“Probably the safest place in Washington right now,” I texted back, not joking.

I believed that up until the moment I heard them pounding on the House door — probably even after that. I’ve covered the Hill on and off for almost 20 years, and I’ve always felt safe in the Capitol.

Sometimes overly so. During Trump’s impeachment trial a year ago, what seemed like hundreds of police lined the same hallways and staircases that the officer in the Senate defended alone last Wednesday. They were there ostensibly to protect the senators from the press, and our movements were unusually — and we thought unfairly — restricted.

But the police are also a comforting presence. In the summer of 2004, just three years after 9/11, I was sitting in a Senate press gallery when the entire Capitol evacuated in just a few minutes because there were reports of a plane headed toward the building. It ended up being a false alarm, but I have always marveled at how quickly the Capitol Police emptied the building, yelling at us to take off our shoes and run. “There is a plane headed for the Capitol! You have two minutes!” they yelled as we ran out.

Since then, and last week, I had faith that there would be similar procedures in place. If there was a problem, there would be a well-executed plan to keep everyone safe. Of course there would. This is the U.S. Capitol. A fortress. The seat of American government. It wasn’t a question.

But my strong sense of safety was eroded on Wednesday in slow motion, as the rioters gradually approached the inner sanctum of the U.S. House.

How could this be happening? Everyone was asking the same question in their heads, and to each other after we were rushed to safety. Not here.

In the days after, I have sorted through the video evidence, much of it recorded by the rioters themselves. And I have pored over the small details of the day with my husband, a reporter for another publication who was in a different part of the Capitol. His photos and videos, like mine, are chilling.

When I saved his images to my phone, making sure they were kept for posterity, they mixed with my own in chronological order. The time stamps told a story.

At 2:20 p.m., my husband filmed rioters trying to break through a main door on the east front of the Capitol. The door is unprotected, with no police visible nearby. At 2:33 p.m., from a different location, he filmed the rioters walking through Statuary Hall toward the House chamber, with two police walking by in the opposite direction. At 2:37 p.m., my photo of lawmakers on the House floor putting on gas masks. Two minutes later, video of lawmakers streaming out of the chamber. By 2:42 p.m., I am filming from a different location in the upper gallery, where they have moved those of us who remained, and peeking my phone above the balcony to capture the armed standoff below. At 2:50, a video I didn’t even realize I had taken, chaotic footage of the ground as they hustled us out of the chamber.

I am focusing on the good things, and the people who helped. None of us was hurt inside the House chamber, or across the Capitol on the Senate side, where an AP colleague was evacuating as the rioters pushed up those stairs. The rioters eventually were pushed out. Press gallery staff moved extremely quickly and got us out of the House safely.

Still, I am sad to lose that sense of safety I always had in the Capitol, not only for myself but for my country.

I’ll be back there soon, and security will be much tighter. But it’s not the safest place in Washington.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Court OKs 1st federal execution of female inmate in 67 years
The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for the Justice Department to carry out the first execution of a female death-row inmate in almost seven decades
12:26AM ( 11 minutes ago )
'Safest place in Washington' no more. A reporter's disbelief
An Associated Press reporter covering Congress, Mary Clare Jalonick cannot stop watching the videos that captured the chaos she lived through last week in the U.S. Capitol
12:17AM ( 21 minutes ago )
Indonesia starts mass COVID-19 vaccinations with president
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has received the first shot of a Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine after Indonesia approved it for emergency use
12:14AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Demoted? Pushed aside? Fate of Kim Jong Un's sister unclear
After the name of Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was found to be missing from North Korea’s newly released lineup for its powerful Politburo, speculation has been rife about the woman widely viewed as the North’s No. 2
12:00AM ( 38 minutes ago )
House urges Pence to help oust Trump; impeachment next
With impeachment ahead, the House is trying first to push the vice president and Cabinet to act even more quickly to remove President Donald Trump from office
11:54PM ( 44 minutes ago )
No. 3 House GOP leader backs Trump impeachment as tide grows
Congressional Republican opposition to impeaching President Donald Trump is starting to crumble at the party's highest echelons
11:47PM ( 51 minutes ago )
AP National News
Top military leaders remind troops of limits of free speech
The military’s top leaders have issued a written reminder to all service members that the deadly insurrection at the Capitol last week was an anti-democratic, criminal act, and that the right to free speech gives no one the right to commit violence
8:38PM ( 3 hours ago )
Michigan plans to charge ex-Gov. Snyder in Flint water probe
The Associated Press has learned that former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal
7:33PM ( 5 hours ago )
As pandemic worsens, most US states resist restrictions
As the U.S. finds itself in the most lethal phase of the coronavirus outbreak yet, governors and local officials in hard-hit parts of the country are showing little willingness to impose any new restrictions on businesses to stop the spread
7:14PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online National News
The Latest: House urges Pence to remove Trump from power
The House has voted to urge Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and hold a Cabinet vote to remove President Donald Trump from office
11:28PM ( 1 hour ago )
Schumer calls for speedy confirmation of Biden Cabinet picks
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says the violent mob at the Capitol last week underscores the need for a swift confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s national security picks
11:07PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Michigan GOP Rep. Upton backs Trump impeachment
Michigan Rep. Fred Upton has become the fourth Republican to back the impeachment of President Donald Trump
10:53PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: GOP lawmakers object to House metal detectors
Republican lawmakers are objecting to new metal detectors outside the House chamber that were added as a security precaution following last week’s deadly attack on the Capitol
9:02PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Group of House Republicans wants Trump censured
A group of moderate House Republicans has introduced a resolution to censure President Donald Trump for his role in last week’s attack at the Capitol and for “attempting to unlawfully overturn the 2020 presidential election.”
8:38PM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: GOP Rep. Brooks not sorry for remarks at rally
A Republican congressman says he won’t apologize for remarks last week despite a proposed censure resolution accusing him of helping incite the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol
8:33PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Court OKs 1st federal execution of female inmate in 67 years
The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for the Justice Department to carry out the first execution of a female death-row inmate in almost seven decades
12:26AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Indonesia starts mass COVID-19 vaccinations with president
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has received the first shot of a Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine after Indonesia approved it for emergency use
12:14AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Fury at the shaken Capitol over the attack, security, virus
Last week, a furious mob overran the U.S. Capitol
12:12AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Supreme Court clears way for woman's execution
The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for the Justice Department to carry out the first execution of a female death-row inmate in almost seven decades
12:08AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Harden says 'crazy' Rockets situation can't be fixed
James Harden has publicly acknowledged his discord with the Houston Rockets for the first time following back-to-back blowout losses to the Los Angeles Lakers
12:08AM ( 30 minutes ago )