US. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards said in a op-ed published in the New York Times that it “physically hurts” to talk about the Capitol riot
“Many Americans think that the saga of the Capitol riot will soon be at its end. For two years, this country has endured an impeachment, lawsuits, criminal investigations, congressional hearings, televised theater. And this week, Congress will release its final report,” Edwards wrote. “But there is nothing final about this moment. A funeral doesn’t put an end to your grief. The trauma cannot be bookended by paperwork. These scars cannot be masked with fine print, debated in committee.”
“I was at the Capitol during the riot. I stood shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues, fighting for our lives, to protect the Capitol and the people who work there. Even now, I can barely talk about it. In fact, very few Capitol Police officers can… it physically hurts to talk about it,” she wrote.
“That day, we held our fellow officers’ hands as they got medical treatment and held vigil beside their hospital beds. We performed CPR on strangers and friends. We went home and washed blood, chemicals and bodily fluids off ourselves. We told our loved ones that we were all right,” she added.
For the most part, we were. In an outstanding show of resiliency, officers got a few hours of sleep and then showed up, battered and bruised, to work the next day. Not only that, they showed up to the very places they had just been traumatized. They stood post in the crime scenes where, just hours before, they were battling for their lives. Day after day, officers came to work with the knowledge that not all of us had made it out alive.”
While one rioter was shot during the breach of the Capitol, no officers were killed in the riot – though a few died from natural causes the following days.
One officer was reportedly assaulted with bear spray and died in a hospital eight hours after the riot. An autopsy found that he had suffered two strokes caused by a blood clot. Despite reports attempting to link his assault, the autopsy found no evidence that the chemical irritants played a role.
Edwards continued, “On June 9, I was in the waiting room off the main hearing chamber, about to testify before the committee investigating the attack. There was a TV playing the hearing; I remember the noise leaking out from the chamber … And then I heard the noise that haunts me to this day: the roar of the crowd at the riot. It instantly transported me back to Jan. 6. I started shaking and sweating. ‘I’m not there. I’m not there,’ I chanted to myself. ‘It’s over. I’m not there.’ But nothing was working.”
“I could feel sweat trickling down my back. I tried to take deep breaths. From my training with the Capitol Police’s peer support program, I knew I was in real danger. I took off my shoes to feel the carpet underneath my feet, and I put my hands on a wooden desk — anything to tell my body that it wasn’t back on the West Front of the Capitol that January. I must have looked insane,” Edwards wrote, adding that she “started praying,” and “asked God to let people see me and hear me and know that my words were true.”
As Edwards noted, she previously testified to the Jan. 6 committee where she described that day as “carnage.”
She testified that on the day of the riot, she worked to keep the rioters connected to the extremist “Proud Boys” group contained next to the bike racks.
However, she says that the police barricade was forced forward and she fell to the ground, knocking her unconscious. Edwards said she suffered a brain injury from the incident.
She concluded the op-ed, “But the trauma kicked off by the Capitol riot is still with us. Only by talking to one another and seeking out help and support from our fellow officers will we find peace — and that could take years. But I sincerely hope that any law enforcement officer knows that in a crisis, my phone is always on. You are never alone as long as you know me.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: HOUSTON CHRONICLE
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