WASHINGTON — Early Wednesday afternoon, as U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan was working in Room 2439 of the Rayburn House Office Building and saw images of “insurgents” storming the Capitol Building across the street, she thought first of her 6- and 10-year-old daughters.
“My first reaction was to call home to Westford and tell my husband ‘don’t let a single TV go on in our home,’” Trahan said. “I didn’t want the girls to be scared.”
Trahan, whose husband David, 6-year-old daughter Caroline and 10-year-old daughter Grace joined her in the Capitol just days before as Trahan was sworn into her second term, was huddled in her office with just two other staffers due to COVID-19 restrictions. She knew little beyond what she saw on TV and learned from messages telling members of Congress to shelter in place.
There were no Capitol Police standing guard. There was no ability to check outside the barricaded office door. For hours, a member of the most powerful deliberative body on earth couldn’t even be sure what was happening at the end of the hall.
“It was anxiety producing because you felt like you were detached from the outside world; the door is locked, barricaded, and you feel a responsibility to your team members who are with you and you don’t really know what’s going on outside your door so you just have to hope that help is on the way,” Trahan said. “That’s not a great feeling. You feel like a sitting duck.”
Trahan said it was about 5 p.m., when Capitol Police knocked on her office door and asked her to attend a briefing on the situation being held for members of Congress.
“That was the first time I got to walk the halls and see a very large law enforcement presence, which made me feel much more secure,” she said.
Trahan, and many other legislators, were not in the House Chamber when the riot broke out because COVID-19 restrictions prevented it, so she was in her office with staffers Ron Carlton and Lisa Degou, of Lowell.
In addition to fear, Trahan said there was also anger and sadness.
“It was as sad as it was enraging, watching hundreds of insurgents rush the steps of the Capitol that I stood on with my daughters days before… watching rioters trample over the hallowed ground where President Lincoln’s desk was located, with a Confederate flag,” Trahan said. “President Lincoln stood for everything that brought the Confederate flag to an end, and there it was. Those were chilling images.”
“I’m not going to forget them anytime soon,” Trahan said. “Especially with the proximity just days before when I was casually and excitedly walking around the Capitol complex with my daughters, in the people’s house, showing them all the beacons of democracy — to think 24 hours later it could be taken over by domestic terrorists.”
Trahan said the mother in her worried about both her children and her staff — “my team members who serve alongside me” — but that she also became determined as she watched the images on TV.
“The other feeling I had was I am not deterred. I am not going to be intimidated,” Trahan said. “The most important thing to contain this violence is to show these domestic terrorists that they did not win, and once the Capitol was secure it was really important that we resumed the people’s business.”
Trahan said the House returned to session about 9 p.m., and stayed in session until about 3:30 a.m. to finish certifying President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trahan got to her home in Washington a short time later and managed to lay down about 4:30 a.m. for what she described mostly as a just “a nap,” before waking up early to catch a flight home — to catch a flight back to her girls.
“My girls were in the middle of class when I came home,” Trahan said. “They were at their Chromebooks, but when I came in I just held them both. I could hear Caroline’s teacher in the background saying ‘go ahead and hug your mom.’
Trahan said she is happy to be back in Westford, but she remains outraged about what she described as “one of our darkest days,” and said she will fly back to Washington tomorrow if needed to help remove President Donald Trump from office.
“Donald Trump is directly responsible for the acts of terror that took place yesterday,” Trahan said. “He simply cannot be permitted to serve as president any longer and he never should be able to hold office ever again.”
Trahan said she knows Trump will not resign, and doubts cabinet members of the vice president will invoke the 25th Amendment, so she already released a statement Wednesday night expressing support for impeachment.
She said she does not believe Trump can be trusted to remain in office for even 13 days.
“The president is a clear and present danger to the safety of our country and the future of our democracy,” Trahan said. “Simply waiting two weeks until inauguration day isn’t the prudent path when we’ve seen up close and in person the damage that can be done by a violent mob at the president’s direction.”
Trahan said the Democratic victories in Georgia, as well as Biden’s election and Democrat’s continued control of the house give her hope that better days are coming.
“I’m happy to be home tonight,” she said Thursday. “But I know tomorrow there’s a lot of work ahead.”