HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — It was on January 6, 2021, when the attack on the U.S. Capitol took place during the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
It is now a year later, and U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar, whose districts stretch to the U.S.-Mexico border, are reflecting on that day and sharing their personal experiences.
“They started evacuating us into a safe zone, but the last image in my mind as I left the chamber was guns being pointed at the insurgents at the door at the main entrance into the chamber telling them is it worth it for it to end today, is it worth it for your life to end,” Gonzalez said.
He explained as he was being escorted out of the chamber and into a safe room, he felt concerned for his safety, the safety of his colleagues, and their lives.
“I don’t think that there was any member of Congress there that day that did not think we might not make it home tonight,” he said.
As the situation escalated at the Capitol, he said there was a moment when everyone came together.
“And eventually we were put in a safe room, Democrats and Republicans, we prayed together, and we talked together. That day I thought for a second that it was a moment of American unity,” he said.
Cuellar was not in the Capitol because of COVID-19 restrictions at the time but explained that his office was across the street where he could see the situation unfolding.
“I’m on the third floor so I literally had a front-row seat to the gathering of the folks and then when they started to breach the Capitol,” he said.
He said although he was not in the Capitol building, he was worried about his staff.
“First I worried about my staff because I had my staff and they couldn’t leave the building because Capitol Police was not allowing anybody to go in or go out,” he said.
He explained that after 6 p.m. that day, his staff was able to leave.
Gonzalez also had concerns for his staff and made an effort to make contact with them to ensure they were safe.
Both congressmen said regardless of political parties, election results, and the attacks, they still had work to do at the Capitol on that day.
“I stayed there by myself all night into the morning until the vote was called, I voted,” said Cuellar.
Gonzalez also explained the importance of completing the certification process.
“I think we were all in a state of shock, clearly but we did what we were elected to do and that was to defend our democracy and our constitution. We weren’t trained militarily to go and do this. We were just members of congress doing what was right and what we promised our constituents what we would do,” he said.