Capitol staffers react to day 1 of Jan. 6 committee hearings

They hope a series of recommendations will ensure the safety of elected officials and thousands of staff.

WASHINGTON — Sharon Nichols is among the thousands of congressmen working in the House of Representatives office buildings next to the US Capitol. She went to work on January 6, 2021, intending to receive her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Instead, Nichols spent several horrific hours locked in her office alone. She wasn’t sure if the footsteps she heard in the hallway outside belonged to other employees, the police, or someone else bent on violence and chaos.

“The memories are everywhere. I think about it a lot,” Nichols said.

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More than a year later, a mass exodus of Capitol Hill employees has unfolded, and for those who remain like Nichols, safety remains a primary concern.

“I don’t think anything will eliminate risk because nothing can,” she said. “Waking up every morning is risky. It’s risky every time you walk out the door.”

After thousands of interviews and hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, the January 6th House Committee outcome is finally being seen by the public during prime time television. Nichols says it’s a culmination of work that her colleagues have been waiting for and eagerly awaiting.

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“People are encouraged,” she said Thursday via Zoom. “It’s not going to undo all the pain, all the emotional trauma. But we’re encouraged that the hearings are happening and people are paying attention and it’s being treated like the significant day it was.”

What emerges from the committee’s work and public hearings has yet to be determined, whether it will be a series of recommendations on how to better secure personnel and facilities going forward, or even criminal charges against former President Donald Trump and others to refer to the Department of Justice.

“I hope this sheds light on everything that went wrong that day and the bad actors – the people who proactively made that happen,” Nichols said. “It will help us review what happened that day, our vulnerabilities and how to prevent it from happening again.”

While it can be difficult to ignore past events or the mental trauma many employees suffered on Jan. 6, for Nichols, it’s not about going to work every day to collect a paycheck. It’s about helping to ensure the strength and resilience of the American political system.

“Democracy doesn’t exist automatically,” she said. “It’s not inevitable. It’s not something we’re entitled to. It exists because of the hard work of the people who maintain it. I’m proud to play a small part in it.”

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