Preserving memories of the Capitol Insurrection

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(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

WASHINGTON (KAMR/KCIT) — The United States Capitol Historical Society has launched an oral history project aimed at preserving memories of the January 6th insurrection. People who were at or impacted are being given the opportunity to share their experiences with the Society.

“We think while memories are fresh we want to be able to tell what happened,” said Jane Campbell, the CEO and President of the Society.

The stories of heroism are countless, Campbell said, mentioning Capitol Police officers, the cleanup crews, staff who moved the box containing ballots, and representatives who despite it all still pushed forward to vote on certifying the election on the same night. 

“Even people who were going to vote against certifying the election, came together and came to the meeting, made their vote, and agreed to a peaceful transfer of power, and that is the American spirit,” Campbell said. 

One group Campbell mentioned, young staffers, put the knowledge they gained during school active shooter drills into action as they told older staffers and members how to stay hidden, helping everyone survive. 

“They were like, okay, turn off all the lights, you know, turn off all the noise on your, on your phones, everybody gets under the desk,’ Campbell said. “And so you had, you know, sometimes you say let the children lead.” 

The Society has begun to collect memories as they continue to fundraise. They need the funds so they can buy video cameras and train interviewers, Campbell said, adding they hope to use graduate students and distinguished media members to conduct interviews.

“And so we will be putting on our website, a place for people to begin the conversation about offering a memory sometime very early in September;” Campbell said. 

The interviews will include more than just people who were at the Capitol on January 6th. The event “touched many more than just the people who were there on that day” Campbell said. Not all stories will be immediately made public. Campbell said they have agreed to keep some memories for posterity for a period of time, per request. 

Campbell wasn’t at the Capitol on January 6th. She’d made the decision days earlier to keep her staff, who work nearby, home that day because of the trouble she anticipated. Instead, she was at home a few blocks away from the Capitol, able to hear the sirens.

“There was a part of me that just couldn’t believe that Americans would storm the Capitol, break the windows, go into our most sacred space and begin to overturn furniture, create real messes that were not respectful in any manner,” Campbell said. 

She immediately knew the society would be called on to understand the violence against the Capitol in context.

“It matters to me because this is our history,” Campbell said. “The first time the Capitol was attacked by a group of American citizens. And we want to have those stories preserved. So that we will be able for my children and my grandchildren, to understand what happened on that day.”

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