When rioters egged on by President Trump stormed the Capitol per week in the past, Sen. Tammy Duckworth wasn’t within the Senate chamber along with her colleagues. She was within the complicated’s underground tunnels, en path to the Senate flooring, the place she deliberate to talk in favor of certifying the Electoral School ballots within the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
However that speech was to not be. Earlier than Duckworth may board the practice to the ground, Capitol Police instructed her that rioters have been urgent towards the constructing doorways and requested that she discover a safe location to shelter in place. With the constructing on lockdown, the Illinois senator confronted additional security issues in contrast with a few of her colleagues; as a wheelchair person, it’s not as easy for her to evacuate.
Duckworth’s army coaching kicked in, and she or he remained calm whereas additionally retaining in contact along with her colleague, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, to study what was taking place outdoors her lockdown location.
“As a soldier, I’ve been to locations the place I assist different folks struggle for democracy,” Duckworth says. “And but right here I used to be, and I couldn’t do something about it within the second.”
In an interview with Fortune, Duckworth mirrored on what was going by way of her thoughts on Jan. 6—and what must occur subsequent. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Fortune: The place have been you through the assault on the Capitol? What was going by way of your thoughts?
Sen. Tammy Duckworth: I used to be on my method to the ground—I used to be within the tunnels. I used to be supposed to talk at 2:50 p.m., and so they breached the Capitol proper round that very same time. Within the tunnels to catch the practice, the Capitol Police stated I may proceed ahead if I wished to, however they would like if I’d take myself to a safe location. As an alternative of constant on to the ground, I went to a safe place with my employees members.
I used to be fairly calm. I used to be speaking with Senator Klobuchar; I couldn’t consider the Capitol had been breached, that the Capitol Police may very well be overwhelmed. It was unbelievable to me that people who name themselves patriots would really be making an attempt to overthrow the federal government and cease us from doing our constitutional responsibility to certify the ballots.
I used to be simply ready, ensuring management knew I used to be positive—to not fear about me. I at all times carry provisions in my backpack—water, aspirin, Tylenol, energy bars. I used to be okay to hunker down for just a little bit.
Lawmakers with army backgrounds appeared to stay calm all through the scenario. Did that coaching and expertise kick in for you?
Positively. I knew precisely what the Capitol Police have been going through and what wanted to be carried out. I knew one of the best factor we may do was to remain out of their method—to be one much less issue for them to fret about.
I at all times know the place the again method out of a room is. I at all times say, previous habits die arduous. And I knew that I may care for myself.
As soon as I knew that the ballots had been secured—that was one of many worries I had.
Have been you apprehensive concerning the accessibility of the Capitol complicated as somebody who makes use of a wheelchair?
Sure, that’s why I didn’t proceed on to the ground. I used to be given the choice, however I knew that if the Capitol was breached there’s just one method out and in for me. There are a number of doorways into the ground of the Senate chambers, however I can solely actually go out and in of the doorways behind the dais. I can solely use the elevators. I knew that placing myself in that scenario was going to make issues tougher for everybody throughout in the event that they needed to evacuate us, in order that’s why I selected as a substitute to shelter in place.
The general public has lately realized extra about among the risks—like Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s panic buttons being ripped out. Has the rest come to mild for you?
They didn’t make it to my principal workplaces, though they did try to achieve entry to my hideaway [private offices located near the Senate floor], as a result of it has a window to the skin. That window was shattered. Thank goodness it held in order that they by no means breached my hideaway. Had I been in there I’d have been in actual jeopardy. It’s fairly badly cracked, and the within of my hideaway is full of shattered glass.
What does it really feel like so that you can see that harm?
For me, it’s frustration. As a result of I couldn’t do something about it. As a soldier, I’ve been to locations the place I assist different folks struggle for democracy. And but right here I used to be, and I couldn’t do something about it within the second. And so it was actually irritating to me to see folks carrying the American flag—the identical flag I wore on my uniform after I went into fight—however they have been carrying the flag to assault our Capitol and to attempt to principally overthrow the Structure. And that imagery was way more hurtful than damaged glass in my hideaway. Glass may be changed, furnishings may be fastened.
There was a decided group inside that crowd that that have been systematic in how they reached the Capitol and have been properly coordinated.
What must occur subsequent?
We have to observe down everybody who was concerned, and there have to be penalties for these actions. After which we have to evaluation the safety plans. The Capitol Police labored very, very arduous. They usually reacted one of the best they may, however they have been overwhelmed and principally let down by their management. We have to have a look at the leadership of the Capitol Police, after which we have to have a look at the agreements—the truth that [D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser] didn’t have the power to call up the D.C. National Guard, for instance.
And as for President Trump?
We’re about to go to impeachment. I feel he must face the results for his actions as properly. He must be barred from ever holding workplace once more.
Extra on the most powerful women in business from Fortune:
- 2020’s Most Powerful Women record
- Feminine founders below fireplace: Are ladies within the startup world being unfairly targeted?
- Biden’s health-equity adviser on her strategy to addressing the politicization of COVID and misinformation
- Women accounted for 100% of the 140,000 jobs shed by the U.S. economic system in December
- Backed by Chelsea Clinton’s venture capital fund, this startup goals to make having most cancers much less lonely