First Person: A Reporter's Recollections Of The Capitol Riot
How do we find the truth about what happened on the day of the Capitol insurrection? Below, CBS reporter Grace Segers reflects on what she remembers from Jan. 6. This ‘First Person’ diary is part of a larger conversation about getting to the truth about Jan. 6. Find that program here.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: It’s been four months since an insurrectionist mob ransacked the U.S. Capitol and tried to stop the count of Electoral College votes for president. That is a fact. It happened. And yet in a House hearing last week about the Jan. 6 attack, Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Pat Fallon of Texas, and Jody Hice of Georgia painted a very different picture.
[TAPE] CLYDE: There was no insurrection. And to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold faced lie, which generally sticks in a direction or could have be more accurately described as a mob of misfits committing disorderly conduct.
[TAPE] HICE: In fact, it was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others.
CHAKRABARTI: Four Trump supporters did indeed die that day. One from a stroke. One was crushed by her fellow rioters. One had a heart attack. One was shot by Capitol Police as she tried to break into the speaker’s lobby. But two members of the Capitol Police also died. One during the attack, and one after. More were injured trying to fight off the surging crowd as it flooded into the building. So, yes, it was a deadly day for individuals. It was also a deeply damaging day, a historic body blow to U.S. democracy.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: So how can Americans get clarity on that big picture, especially as some members of Congress wish to pull the curtain of obfuscation and denial across the whole thing? Because it did happen. And some of those same politicians had to duck for cover behind Capitol Police who had their weapons drawn to keep the mob out of the House chamber. The rioters also came within moments of finding Vice President Mike Pence. CBS reporter Grace Segers was there on Jan. 6. She saw it all firsthand.
GRACE SEGERS: There was a huge crowd outside the Capitol. I could hear their chanting. But I just figured, you know, it was a normal demonstration and everything seemed very normal until Pence was evacuated from the Senate chamber.
SEGERS: A Capitol police officer came into the Senate press gallery where I was, and told us to lock the doors. That was about the same time that Officer Eugene Goodman was directing rioters away from the Senate chamber. So it was already bad. And I just had no idea.
SEGERS: My boyfriend was watching TV at the time, and he could see them enter the building. So he knew I was in more danger than I did. He was absolutely freaking out, and so was my mom. I initially sent them a short text like, I’m fine. I can’t talk right now.
SEGERS: Seeing the chaos on the Senate floor where all the senators were standing up and milling about, the room was surrounded by Capitol Police officers. I kind of had a very physical reaction, where I could feel my heart pounding. I could feel tears in my eyes. And I thought to myself, you know, not right now. I can’t be emotional right now.
SEGERS: The reporters were on the third floor, and we were told to get to the basement. And all of us headed to the stairs because in an emergency you take the stairs. I think it just was ingrained in us. And there is a Capitol police officer at the top of the stairs who told us, No, you have to take the elevator because they’re on the stairs.
SEGERS: A bunch of us ended up jamming into a Senator’s Only elevator. And then when we were in the basement, there were all these police officers there telling us like, Don’t run, but you have to walk very quickly. I was jogging next to Senator Roy Blunt for a while. And I had a coworker tell me, No matter what you do, stay with the senators because they’re going to be safe.
SEGERS: When we were in our safe location, there were just a ton of law enforcement officers that kept coming through and they were all wearing these bulletproof vests and carrying these massive guns. Other reporters were just like sitting on the floor for five hours. Meanwhile, overhearing on the walkie-talkies what was happening in the Capitol complex.
[TAPE] NORAH O’DONNELL: We want to bring in Grace Segers, who has been there witnessing this on Capitol Hill, we will not say to protect her own safety. But Grace, tell us what you’ve been witnessing.
[TAPE] SEGERS: Hi Norah. Yes, so it’s been pretty chaotic. We are now in a safe location, along with all of the senators. But things have been really scary. I will say it was pretty terrifying when the Senate suddenly went into recess, and all of the doors in the chamber were locked down. The reporters were locked down in the chamber with the senators. I’ve never seen anything like this.
SEGERS: I think we came back to the Capitol building at about 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. Walking right in front of me were these aides carrying the Electoral College ballots. And knowing that if the rioters had gotten their hands on them, they probably would have destroyed them.
[TAPE] TED CRUZ: What does it say to the nearly half the country that believes this election was rigged if we vote not even to consider the claims of illegality and fraud in this election?
[TAPE] MITCH McCONNELL: I want to say to the American people, we will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs or threats.
[TAPE] TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I have spent my entire adult life defending our democracy. But I never, never thought it would be necessary to defend it from an attempt at violent overthrow in our nation’s own Capitol building.
[TAPE] MIKE PENCE: The votes for president of the United States are as follows. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of the state of Delaware has received 306 votes. Donald Trump of the state of Florida has received 232 votes. The purpose of the joint session having concluded pursuant to Senate concurrent Resolution 1. 117th Congress, the chair declares the joint session dissolved.
SEGERS: Probably went to sleep at around 5 a.m. And then I woke up at around noon and I was going to log on to work. And then I realized I just couldn’t. I couldn’t do it. I was too overwhelmed. I was too tired. I, like, lay on the floor and started crying. I mean, it’s four months later, and I still find it haunting me. I don’t like remembering it, I don’t like talking about it. It’s not fun for me, but I feel like I have to. And I see it as my responsibility now as a journalist, recording history, making sure that it doesn’t get forgotten. And then also me personally, just as a human being, making sure that it isn’t swept under the rug.
In this diary … we hear from:
Grace Segers, CBS reporter.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.