About one month after pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, The 19th reached out to all 143 women in the 117th Congress to ask about their experiences on January 6. Twenty-three shared their points of view from that day. We are also publishing each lawmaker’s full account of that day. Here is what Rep. Judy Chu of California told The 19th. The transcript has been lightly edited:
I decided to watch the debate from my office. I was all alone because my staff was working from home. I was watching the news and C-SPAN, keeping an eye on the inside and outside of the building. I was shocked out of my mind when I saw the rioters smashing the windows and attacking the Capitol Police. I saw the Confederate and Trump flags and locked my door, turned the lights off and refused to come out for at least six to seven hours — two hours longer than I needed to.
That afternoon, I thought I would be coming to the floor any minute to cast my vote on Arizona, and then I was absolutely astonished to see the rioters going through the Capitol, going through Statuary Hall, clearly creating all kinds of mayhem and looking very threatening. And that was when we got all kinds of emergency communications to stay where we were and that the Capitol had been breached. And there were all kinds of freaky messages, such as the Cannon building being evacuated because of a bomb threat. I was terrified, but I was, of course, in constant communication with my staff.
It seemed to me that the people were interested in the U.S. Capitol, so I felt a little relief from that being in my office in Rayburn, but still there were just so many. I did hear footsteps, and I did hear knocking on my door. There was no way I was going to open up the door. I turned off the lights and turned down the TV. I just locked the door, but fortunately, I have double doors.
The debate stopped. [Speaker Nancy Pelosi] was ushered off. So at that point, I just watched all of the coverage from the C-SPAN cameras as well. I couldn’t believe it when they had gone through the bicycle fence. And I couldn’t believe that they had just smashed right through it and had gone right into the Capitol, just hellbent on taking it over.
I cast my last vote at 2:30 a.m. and then went straight home.
And so over the next couple of days, I was just glued to the news coverage, and it dawned on me after awhile how serious the situation was. All of our lives were threatened and if any of these rioters caught us, it became so clear to me that they would have attacked, kidnapped or murdered us. They were in a frenzy. They were brainwashed, and they were obviously thinking that they had to carry out the intention that Trump had — even if it took hanging Pence by a noose or assassinating members of Congress.
And then I heard the stories from my fellow members and Pelosi who said that her staff had to hide under their conference table for hours while people were banging on the door. I can imagine how frightened they were. Then I thought of my colleagues who had true PTSD because they were in the gallery. They were talking about still having scrapes on their knees. They had to crawl for 45 minutes. The other thing that my colleagues talked about was they thought the whole thing was a superspreader event, being locked together for hours.
The image that frightened me the most was that of the Capitol Police putting the furniture against the door as the rioters tried to smash the windows, and the police holding up their guns to the door. It was really frightening, and actually I got calls and texts from all my friends and supporters who were very concerned for my safety. People all across the nation were seeing the mayhem and could not believe it. Something like this had not happened since the War of 1812. This was truly extraordinary.
It wasn’t until I saw the video of that woman being shot just outside the speaker’s lobby — which, of course, I pass by every single day, multiple times — that I realized we came very close to being inundated by the rioters. Had the police not held that door where the windows were, they would have just flooded the House chambers.