Jan. 6 insurrection marks one-year anniversary



One year after the insurrection, the US Capitol building no longer has barricades in front, and ready to welcome visitors (with COVID restrictions).

Joseph Zuloaga '23, National News Editor

In an address to Congress following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt uttered that December 7th would be “a date which will live in infamy.” 

Nearly 80 years later, those words rang true with me, and across our polarized nation, on Jan. 6, 2021. What was supposed to be a regular winter day in our nation’s capital turned into a 21st century apocalyptic scene as an insurrection at the United States Capitol–one of the symbols of American democracy–was sparked by pro-Trump supporters following Donald Trump’s refusal to accept defeat in the 2020 election. 

The harrowing images coming out of Washington, D.C. deeply disturbed me. It was the epitome of an attempted coup seeking to turn the United States into an authoritarian regime, the likes of which have been seen in North Korea and Russia, and something I would not have expected to see in this country.

One year after this egregious act of domestic terrorism, a question remains unanswered in my mind: “Have we learned from what happened on January 6?”

Let’s turn the clock back one year and recall that fateful day.

Jan. 6, 2021: a day that was calendared to be a procedural occurrence with the certifying of the electoral votes of the 2020 election to reaffirm Joe Biden’s victory. My journalist side called me to watch the events occurring early in the morning in our nation’s capital, as it was sure to be an eventful day after weeks of inflammatory rhetoric by then-President Trump calling for supporters to show up for his Save America rally on the Ellipse.

Sure enough, crowds of Trump supporters gathered in front of the White House, eager to hear their president and his supporters debunk the great “fraud” that was the “stolen” 2020 election. 

Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani said, “Let’s have a trial by combat” with Mr. Trump later telling his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol” because they will “never take back our country with weakness. [They] have to show strength and [they] have to be strong.” With this language, sympathizers were jolted into a state of conflict and thundered down Pennsylvania Avenue, seeking to “stop the steal.”

At the same time, a joint session of Congress had commenced to officially verify the electoral votes of all 50 states. Republicans–as planned–quickly objected to Arizona’s electoral votes. As the session split for debate in the House and Senate, tensions outside were escalating as MAGA supporters were inching closer to breaking police barriers to enter Capitol grounds. It was seconds from disaster. What happened next shocked me to my core.

At around 1pm, a stampede of rioters stormed the police barriers and blasted their way into the Capitol, scaling up walls, destroying windows and doors in the process, attacking and crushing police officers, and passing through the Rotunda as if it was a Sunday walk in the park, defacing an iconic symbol of our nation. 

Both the House and Senate were rapidly alerted of the chaos outside the chambers with lawmakers running for cover. The Senate was violently stormed by the mob of protesters, with some climbing down the walls to land on the Senate floor. Over in the House, lawmakers were instructed to wear gas masks and the doors leading into the chamber were barricaded with furniture, guns being drawn at protestors. 

As the day progressed and more gruesome scenes from DC were broadcast across the nation, I couldn’t help but feel ashamed. I had seen reports from other national crises, like Pearl Harbor and 9/11, but never expected to see a crisis of severe magnitude unfold in my lifetime. It disgusted me how America–the symbol of democracy around the world–was hijacked by domestic terrorists who nearly succeeded in staging a coup d’état and overthrowing a legitimately elected president. We were extremely close to losing the precious gift that is democracy–one that we tend to overlook and fail to value enough. 

The events made me sincerely question if I was proud to be an American. This wasn’t the America that I–nor the world–had come to know. I was sickened by Mr. Trump’s boldness to go to the lengths of pushing a self-concocted baseless Big Lie and the blatant disregard for the rule of law and the institutions of the democratic U.S. government by not deploying a strong federal response to restore law and order, like he deployed against Black Lives Matter protesters in the summer of 2020 in DC. It was the climax of four years of careless governing by a president who did not put “America First” and did not “Make America Great Again.”

Many tense hours later and after no significant action to stop the violence by Trump, Capitol Police and the National Guard were able to secure the perimeter around the Capitol, bringing some semblance of peace and order to Congress, though its members were not deterred by the insurrection, and fulfilled their constitutional duty to certify Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

With the physical scars at the Capitol building being repaired, emotional scars remain. Five lives were lost in the insurrection, one being police officer Brian Sicknick. Police officers who were there that day emphasize that the moments of Jan. 6 are fresh in their minds when they turn every corner of the Capitol. Officer Eugene Goodman and all of the Capitol police officers are true national heroes who were the guardians of democracy.

As we commemorate the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection, we should remind ourselves that there is more that unites us than divides us; however, that cliche has been tested multiple times in the past year with the “Big Lie” quietly permeating itself across the country, unreasonably putting into question the election process in America. 

According to NBC News, 170 out of the more than 700 insurrectionists with federal criminal charges have pleaded guilty but not many have shown outward remorse about their actions in the Capitol attack and the MAGA movement is still active amongst Republican voters, with Trump continuing to be the face of the GOP after his acquittal in his second impeachment trial, precisely due to the insurrection. 

It is challenging to discern whether or not the nation has healed and learned from the incidents of Jan. 6, even after one year has passed. I question if we still are the United States of America or are we the Un-United States of America in this divided nation, forgetting what the Founding Fathers envisioned for this country more than 200 years ago.

Responding to Benjamin Franklin’s legendary comment that the Founding Fathers had created “a republic, if you can keep it,” journalist Chuck Todd said, “American democracy will survive only, if we can keep it.”