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. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut told The 19th. The transcript has been lightly edited:
I went over to the Capitol with one staff person, a young man named Harper. Since Connecticut was not one of the contested states, I went to the gallery to watch the proceedings. I think it started about 1 o’clock, I planned to stay a couple hours and then I’d come back to my office to get some stuff done. Being chair of the Appropriations Committee, I have an office in the Capitol but I don’t really use it. I told Harper to throw all my stuff down and you stay here while I went to the gallery.
There was a whole group of us in the gallery. All of a sudden, the majority leader got up from his chair, and I saw that [Speaker Nancy Pelosi] was evacuated.
Then we clearly knew something was happening. The Capitol Police came to the podium in the House and said, “Take your seat. Everything is fine. We’re going to resume with the testimony to [Rep. Jim McGovern].”
A few minutes later, the Capitol Police went to the podium again and said the rioters had breached the Capitol. They have tear gas and are heading toward the doors of this House chamber. They said get your gas masks — they’re under the seats. And quite frankly, I had no idea that gas masks were under the seats. We pulled out a backpack and a silver package and ripped the paper off. I looked to [Rep. Jim Himes] and asked if he got the gas mask out. He was working on it too. I didn’t even know how to put it on.
I had my gas mask and was grabbing my stuff when the chaplain went to the podium and said a prayer of peace. We started making our way across the gallery, but there are railings every few seats, so we had to keep ducking under. Someone said it felt like we were doing the limbo. The glass was being smashed by the rioters, so our security told us to get down and someone shouted to take off our congressional pins. I was lying on the floor, and I had very little juice left in my phone, but I called my husband. I was afraid to say “I love you,” because it harkened back to 9/11.
I was lying on the floor, [Rep. Jason Crow], a former member of the Army’s Ranger Regiment, was saying: “Get down! Put your head down!” People made those final calls. I reached my husband and I said, “I’m OK. Call the kids and tell them that I’m all right. They’re going to get us out of here.”
I wasn’t scared. I knew we were in a very dangerous position. You could see and hear what I thought were gunshots and see that they had broken the doors. All of a sudden, there was a loud banging on that door, and we all began to move but [the Capitol Police] said to move, stay back because it could be the rioters. We needed to figure out if it was the rioters or the police. We found out afterward that it was the rioters, but the police had subdued them. Then they opened the door and evacuated us, pushing and saying, “Move! Move! Get out of there!”
To my left, I could see that they had rioters spread eagle on the floor with the Capitol Police with guns all over them. And then they just moved us as fast as we could down the steps and through the tunnels and to a safe and secure location.
My Capitol office is right off the floor of the House near the speaker’s lobby. Harper was barricaded in the office until late in the afternoon when the Capitol Police came to get him to a safe place. We could hear them screaming and shouting. They were right by that door. That young man was alone by himself in this office barricade.
We had no idea what was happening outside and no idea where they were in the Capitol. What we did know was that they were at the door of the chamber and had smashed the glass of the doors. I believe it was the grace of God that they didn’t breach those doors. They were really hellbent on violence, and I think we would have seen a lot more bloodshed that day. They feel very emboldened because they did reach the Capitol, which has not happened since the War of 1812.
Then we were in a secure location. There were so many of us and a number of people have tested positive. Some of the Republican members weren’t wearing masks. It was a chilling, harrowing experience. I wasn’t afraid, but I knew it was dangerous. We were in real danger.
Again, you know your adrenaline is really pumping and you’re trying to move. I thought about my family. I was in the House office building on 9/11 when they evacuated us, and it was hours before I was able to reach my family or they were able to reach me. They didn’t know where I was, and I didn’t know where they were. This situation — it was the same. Those of us who were inside, even as harrowing as it was, weren’t looking at what was happening outside. And those watching what was happening from outside were frightened. It is tough to watch.
You don’t think about it when you’re going through it. It was tough to watch the step-by-step of where they were. We were told by the Capitol Police, told by others, that we had the intelligence. The intelligence was there and there was a mob descending on Washington and their target was the Congress. One of my Republican colleagues said we had the intelligence, but we didn’t act on it. Why? Why did it take so long for the National Guard to get there? It was such a failure of security and such a lack of coordination of the agencies that were there. And it’s not just to protect members. I asked a couple of young women reporters who were there how they were doing, and they weren’t shy in saying that they’re hanging in there. There were workers, staff — like Harper who hid under a desk — and the people who work there, and yes, the Capitol Police. It’s sometimes harder to relive after the fact.