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I’m a House member caught up in scary attack on Capitol by our own citizens

January 6, 2021
Op-Eds

I’m a House member caught up in scary attack on Capitol by our own citizens
Fox News
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
January 6, 2021
https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/attack-on-capitol-rep-vicky-hartzler

 

Wednesday was a dark day in American history — a day not marked by an attack by outside enemies but an attack on our seat of government by our own citizens. What America is seeing is more characteristic of a Third World nation coup than the greatest country in the world.

I came to the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday ready to represent my constituents and stand up for the Constitution by witnessing the certification and counting of Electoral College votes in the presidential election. I was ready to object to accepting certain states’ electors due to my belief that entities in these states changed election procedures against their state laws.

The first few states were counted and then Arizona’s electors were presented and an objection was made. As both Democrats and some of my fellow Republicans started debating, I heard alarms going off outside the House chamber. We then we received an alert from Capitol Police on our phones saying there was police activity near the Cannon House Office Building and to stay inside.

Soon after we got another alert on our phones saying everyone in Capitol complex buildings should stay inside and away from the windows. Something was happening outside — and it wasn’t good.

We then heard more activity in the hallways outside. We knew something was wrong as very quickly House security officers slammed shut the doors around the gallery of the House chamber and the doors were quickly locked.

We were locked in and told "this is the safest place you could be." Debate was stopped. Capitol Police announced everything was OK and to just "stay seated and be calm." Debate resumed but was again stopped. Capitol Police informed us we needed to prepare to get down by our seats—that the Capitol had been breached.

Then, after a few minutes, the officials told us tear gas had been deployed because people were in the Capitol Rotunda. They instructed us to take out the gas hoods under our chairs and be prepared to use them.

We quickly did that and struggled with opening the secure bags and figuring out how they worked. Once out of the bag the fans started working, creating a cacophony of humming throughout the chamber that made it hard to hear each other.

The person in the chair gaveled and invited us to pray. The new House chaplain started praying but her words were drowned out by an attack on our chamber. Protesters were moving from the rotunda and coming to the chamber.

The chaplain’s prayers were drowned by forceful banging on the back chamber door. The protesters were here. Capitol security stood bravely at the door with weapons drawn prepared to protect us should the door be breached. People started leaving their seats. It was scary.

Then we were motioned to leave, and people quickly headed toward the door carrying their humming gas mask hoods in case they were needed. I left my portfolio, grabbed my phone and gas hood and moved quickly to the door with my colleagues catching one last glance at the back door, concerned for our brave Capitol security officers willing to risk their own safety to protect ours.

We were led down a maze of stairways and hallways not knowing where we were going. Capitol Police officers lined the way calmly directing us where to go. Members of the force, and several of my colleagues, carried House members who needed assistance down the stairs.

We eventually arrived at a secure location milling around in shock and grief for our nation. It broke my heart at the desecration of the beautiful Capitol building and the institution I hold dear.

Periodic announcements were made on updates. One of my colleagues spoke and said now was the time to pray; to come together like our founders did.

He invited us to kneel and pray together. I did along with many of my colleagues. Our new House chaplain led us in a wonderful prayer citing Psalm 46: "God is our refuge; God is our strength. An ever present help in time of trouble. Therefore, I will not fear."

A good word at a very bad time.

As I write this, I am still in shelter as Capitol Police clear Capitol Hill. We will return to the Capitol and finish the Electoral College counting process. We will carry on. We will fulfill our duty. We will follow the Constitution.

May this despicable act be a turning point in our history where we choose to come together and move forward to address challenges rather than attacking each other or desecrating the institutions that serve as the hallmark of debate for our republic.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., is a senior member of the House Armed Services and Agriculture committees. She also serves on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.