During my years of public service, my time working on Capitol Hill was the most poignant. The idea of walking the same halls as those who built the greatest democracy the world has ever known was overwhelming. My ancestors cultivated the land and laid the marble floors I scurried along, and the likes of Hiram Revels, Shirley Chisolm and John Lewis fought for my rights as an American in those chambers where I spent so much time.
The job was not easy or forgiving. The days were long, and the politics were tough. But the privilege of walking through those doors every day was extraordinary.
When I look back on my time as a congressional staffer, I am honored to have been among those who work tirelessly every day on behalf of the people of this nation, including the interns, committee clerks, service staff, librarians and legislative aides. They are the true backbone of the Congress.
For me, the institution became a home base. My colleagues were my neighbors and the constituents we served were our community. The Capitol was the place we all came together to uphold democracy, cultivating a sense of purpose, belonging and safety for people to be seen and heard by their government. But for many, that sense of security was diminished on Jan. 6, 2021. Those feelings of soundness and unity that made us proud to serve turned into fear, uncertainty and anger.
But to me, it was also a point of reckoning. The feelings experienced by many on that fateful day are no different than what many staffers experience every day as people of color. With an intruder carrying a Confederate flag, others holding banners proclaiming white supremacy and some hurling racial epithets at Black police officers, the insurrection further amplified deep concerns about the systemic racism, voter suppression and inequities that millions have experienced since the birth of this nation.
For those who choose to walk the halls of Congress every day to help our nation heal from these traumas, the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was a devastating blow in so many ways.
One year after this violent attack, many of those congressional staffers and employees are still working to pick up the pieces while also choosing to serve another day.
It is imperative that we not only support them but help them re-establish that sense of belonging, purpose and safety that many of us felt underneath the Capitol dome. During this difficult anniversary, we must provide encouragement to those who work on Capitol Hill.
Today, we hope Capitol Hill employees will take the time to heal and reflect. Together we will move forward on behalf of the nation.
Sydney Burns, a former congressional staffer, is deputy press secretary for the Alliance for Congress.
For those in need of extra support today and beyond, please visit CapitolStrong.org for a list of resources available on and off the Hill.