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Apr. 8—As an unruly mob advanced on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden sat alone in his office in the Longworth House Office Building next door.
He said he'd told his staff to stay home that day because he worried their commute "could be potentially dangerous," given reports that some of the people descending on the nation's capital for a Trump rally could pose a threat.
The Lewiston Democrat said Thursday during an online Great Falls Forum sponsored by the Lewiston Public Library that he stayed away from the House floor that day because Maine's electoral votes were not in dispute and COVID-19 concerns were keeping everyone away who didn't need to be there.
As a result, he said, he watched the proceedings on television and saw what his colleagues on the floor did not: a mob tearing down fences and surging toward the Capitol.
He could see the violent group advancing, the police faltering, the doors giving way, the crowd pouring into the building.
Golden, a combat veteran who served in the U.S. Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he found it personally unsettling to hear flash bangs going off outdoors, the sounds he associates with warfare.
Though he said he "felt reasonably safe," he "secured the perimeter" of his office in case insurgents pushed their way into the congressional office building.
The whole situation, the congressman said, was "very disturbing" and he felt deep concern for lawmakers in the Capitol who faced an imminent threat that they weren't even aware of until they fled just before the mob reached them.
Golden said he recognized the discovery of pipe bombs at party headquarters just around the block from his congressional office as "a military tactic," an effort to divert attention at a critical moment.
The lawmaker said the country is lucky that the invasion of the Capitol didn't prove uglier than it was. "It could have been much worse," Golden said.
He said he felt "anger and deep sadness" as he watched the events unfold, followed by a commitment "to stay there and get the job done" that the entire Congress shared. It reconvened that evening to finish the business of certifying the election of Joe Biden as president.
Golden said he remembers being in Afghanistan during a presidential election there that included violence at the polls and then saw similar political turmoil in Iraq, including assassinations of officials.
"I never could have imagined when I was 23 years old" that the United States could slip toward such unruliness, he said.
"It's just unacceptable. We're so much better than this," Golden said.
He said Americans have long seen that the democratic process can deal with our differences successfully and that violence is no answer.
What we need, Golden said, is "respect for one another" and for the system of government that has served us for centuries.