The officer told lawmakers to ready themselves to crouch beneath their seats but also be prepared to evacuate if necessary. Another burst of frightened chatter broke out, and one representative yelled from the upstairs gallery that someone should call President Donald Trump and ask him to tell protesters—whom he addressed at a rally before the march on the Capitol—to stand down.
After minutes of confusion, the officer told lawmakers to grab gas masks secured under their seats.
Press aides ran around, handing everyone in the upstairs gallery “escape hoods”—essentially gas masks that pull over your head to your shoulders.
I ripped the heavy gray packaging off mine but kept my eye on the situation on the floor. Soon, banging on the doors echoed throughout the chamber. The noise grew outside, and inside the chaplain for the day began praying aloud.
One lawmaker, Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., told members how to operate their gas masks. Capitol Police began to evacuate members through a side door. Upstairs, press aides told photographers to stop taking pictures. Some snapped away anyway. Then police gave the evacuation order for the gallery. I grabbed my laptop, chargers, escape hood, and reporter’s notebook. Almost as soon as I started to move toward the door, police changed their directions. “Get down!” someone yelled from behind me.
I crouched behind the seats. There were perhaps three reporters behind me, and the rest in a crowd ahead of me. I heard a bang and thought someone had shot into the chamber. My heart was pounding. I clutched my gear and an uninflated gas hood. My hands shook. I peered around the chairs I hid behind. I had the morbid thought that maybe someone would shoot if he saw exposed faces, but I wanted to see what was happening.