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. Sara Jacobs of California told The 19th. The transcript has been lightly edited:
We had most of our team work from home and anyone who came in — just two staff members and myself — all got in early because we thought the protests themselves would get violent. I got to the office early that morning, around 7:30 a.m or 8 a.m. I was excited to see the proceedings and planned to celebrate the previous day’s Senate election wins in Georgia with Rep. Nikema Williams. Well, I had seen what was going on in social media, so I was concerned about safety. I was concerned about violence at protests, but I always thought that would stay outside.
So I was sitting in the House gallery when I saw the alerts that the Madison building was being evacuated. I texted my chief of staff and then got an alert that the Cannon building was being evacuated. I made sure a number of my freshmen classmates knew they could come to my office in Longworth if they needed to after the proceedings had started.
Everything was going along and then we got to the rejection of Arizona’s votes. We start to hear commotion of Capitol Police behind us. Doors started to close. They took the speaker out and Jim Clyburn.
They told us in the gallery to be ready to take the gas masks from under our seats and prepare to evacuate, even while it seemed the debate was still going on. There was tear gas in the rotunda, the police said. I had a really hard time opening the packaging for the escape hood. I texted my parents and told them I was in the safest place I could be. I was sitting near Val Demings, Abigail Spanberger and Mikie Sherrill, and that made my chief of staff feel better. A good crew who knew what we should be doing up there in the gallery. Eventually we hid under the seats.
I heard some shots and someone told us to take our pins off. We had to climb over chairs. Annie Kuster and I were evacuating together. It was like an obstacle course.
We went downstairs in an elevator. We saw some of the rioters on the ground. Then we took an elevator — me and Annie Kuster and a few other people. I just remember Annie and I were sure that the doors were going to open and when it opened there would be rioters. The police officer stood in front of the door.
When the elevator doors opened, we started running through hallways. We could hear the mob behind us and Capitol Police running, and that’s when I was really scared. I really thought that we were going to be killed. So I was thinking about what messages we needed to send to my team to make sure they would use this situation to at least create some good. I remember thinking to myself over and over again: I don’t even know how to get out in normal times. It’s my fourth day. I don’t know how to get out.
I’ve been in some pretty hairy situations before, but the fact was I didn’t know evacuation routes. I couldn’t tell you if it was 20 minutes or two hours. I know some of those in the gallery tried to piece it together later. It felt simultaneously very fast and like forever. I think when they took the speaker off the floor and we got the evacuation hoods, I realized this wasn’t going to be normal.
Everyone was helping each other. Annie Kuster and I were the last two people who were able to somewhat evacuate before we had to hide under the seats for a little bit. There was a group in the gallery section just next to us who stayed trapped there for much longer. We had our hoods on, so I didn’t have a lot of peripheral vision. But the whole time, one of the most amazing things was just to see the camaraderie and the care. Everyone was really helping each other. People who had experience in these situations were keeping people calm. I was joking the other day that I was hiding under the chair and said, “By the way, I’m Sara. It’s nice to meet you.” I can’t remember who I said that to. We are checking on each other. It really does feel like a family.
I think we were sent to a couple of different safe places. The first couple did not feel very safe. There were a lot of windows, it didn’t feel safe. The final one did feel pretty safe, but I think there was a lot of concern about whether people would find out where we are because eventually it was almost every member in that room all together — which could have been bad if folks realized that and found out where we were.
There was a lot of fear still. One person undid the stanchion — the thing that holds the red ropes — and was holding it like a weapon. There was a lot of concern about the lack of mask wearing as we were trapped in a room together for a long time. There were some people who were still really concerned and frazzled, while others who were really thinking about how we could get back. At one point, the Republicans requested that we start praying, and that irked many of us, including many religious people, in part because it just didn’t feel appropriate. They were using the microphone. I was concerned that they were making too much noise.
The caucus leadership on both sides were both there. They brought out water and Goldfish for all of us. I rationed my water intake, so I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom. People were talking to each other, checking on each other. A lot of conversation. Most people didn’t seem that nervous about not making noise.
We have a couple of members who are older, and a lot of people were in town who otherwise would have been voting by proxy. So at one point, Lisa Rochester found some masks and started offering them to Republicans. She was so nice about it, and a lot of them declined and were not taking it seriously. A lot of the Republicans with no masks were all sitting together in one part of the room. I tried to stay further away from that area.
We were all trying to scramble for phone chargers. It must have been about four or five hours. A lot of people were texting their loved ones, trying to figure out who had phone chargers. Folks were talking to each other. It was the first time we had been in a room together. One member came up to me, and they didn’t have their phone all day and asked to use my phone to text their chief of staff to see if they were okay.
Once we got into the secure location, I felt a lot better, but I wouldn’t say I totally felt relief. Once they let us out and started the proceedings again, I went back to my office and worked on my statement calling for impeachment. Jason Crow is my neighbor in Longworth, and we had a glass of whiskey and then I went back to the House to watch the proceedings and vote. I felt like it was important to not let the fear linger. Some of us who were in the gallery, we all went back to the gallery that night. I think that kind of helped make sure that wasn’t a place where that was the general feeling. I have not had any fear or anything.