Watching an Insurrection Unfold

Watching in real-time, I had no idea how it would end.

abstract watercolor illustration of the US Capitol building on fire
Image created via Midjourney

Wednesday, January 6th, started as an ordinary day. Actually, it started a bit better. I hadn't slept much, staying up far too late watching the results of the Georgia Senate runoff races. But I was running full steam ahead on adrenaline.

I even thought I might watch some of the Joint Congress session that would confirm Joe Biden as the 46th president when the process began about noon Central Time. But after talking in Autumn for a nap and finishing up some things for work, I got distracted. It wasn't until a friend sent me a text around 1:30 pm that I knew something was wrong.

I turned to a live stream from ABC on YouTube and saw what was unfolding. Rioters had broken into the Capitol building and disrupted the proceedings. Lawmakers, including Mike Pence, had been whisked away into hiding. It was utter chaos.

And I couldn't look away. I rarely watch live news and don't even remember the last time I watched for more than maybe an hour for some breaking story.

I remember watching Columbine happen in real time. I was a freshman in high school, and when we heard what had happened, we turned on the tv in my Spanish class and watched, horrified.

I remember 09/11 when an aide from the school office came into our choir room early in the morning. She told us that two airplanes had flown into the World Trade Center buildings and that the Pentagon was on fire. We turned on the tv. I watched the towers fall.

I knew - particularly with 09/11 - that the world had forever changed that day. Watching the insurrection at the Capitol felt much the same way. Things will never be the same.

My kids had remote learning, but they happened to have a break when I first turned on the news. It was crazy to think that - unlike when Columbine and 09/11 happened - their teachers likely had no idea what was going. They would have been focused on their screens for remote teaching. My 8-year-old started sending chat messages to his teacher via Zoom to fill her in.

As we kept watching, I had to think about what to say to my kids. They weren't frightened, or at least didn't outwardly appear to be frightened. Events that we had previously considered unimaginable have kept happening for the past four years. The presidential term of the past four years represents most of their awareness of current events. I had to narrate what we were watching and how serious it was. How deplorable. And, watching in real-time, I had no idea how it would end.

At the same time, I had to keep my own emotions in check. I couldn't let my own fears overtake my responsibility as a parent. Throughout hours of watching, I wasn't able to maintain this 100%. At one point, I snapped at my husband out of sheer emotional and physical exhaustion.

After the curfew went into place in Washington D.C. and the rioters were forced back from the Capitol, the kids went to bed. I kept watching late into the night, through the Congressional confirmation of Joe Biden's victory. I would fall asleep and wake back up, continuing to check the news until I saw the headline confirming that the ceremonial process was complete.

I have kept the kids informed in the days following. I am fearful of additional violence ahead of the January 20th inauguration. I worry that my kids will no longer know what it is like to have a safe election and that throwing a collective temper tantrum will become normalized for a losing party.

So many times over the past four years, I have said to my children, "Well, the President did this, but that is NOT ok." I've had to tell my kids that they will face consequences for bad behavior, even when the President does not. I have had to tell my kids that honesty and integrity matter, even when the President doesn't know the meaning of those words.

I want to see follow-through on impeachment proceedings. I don't care if Mike Pence only serves two days as President. History will look back, and future generations will wonder, "Why did a President only serve two days?"

Because the predecessor incited an insurrection on the Capitol and lawmakers rejected fascism, that's why.

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