I was excited to tell you that despite-it-all story, but I can’t. I can’t because the woman I spoke to for it, a woman who goes out of her way to bring happiness to her neighbors, is scared.
“I’m scared to draw attention to our house,” she tells me on a recent morning. “I don’t want them to win, but . . .”
In normal times, she wouldn’t have hesitated to speak publicly about her effort, she explains, apologizing.
In normal times, I would have tried harder to convince her to do so, but I must accept that I can’t guarantee that no harm will come to her if she does talk.
At least, not right now.
Washington didn’t just come under siege by domestic terrorists Jan. 6. It is still under it, waiting, watching, worrying.
Before that day, Trump flags or bumper stickers seen on passing vehicles in this region were taken as a political statement. Now they bring visions of congressional staffers huddling under a table, angry men tossing a journalist over a barrier and a police officer crying out in pain as a chaotic crowd crushes him in a doorway.
Now, they carry disturbing questions: Whose hands were those zip-tie cuffs that a man carried intended to bind? What if those 11 molotov cocktails, which authorities say another man brought, had been tossed?
There are, of course, plenty of Trump supporters who did not take part in the chaos at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. They, too, should be furious about what happened that day, what is happening still.
If people in their lives are now looking at them differently, it’s because those terrorists forced people to look at everyone around them differently. They made people wonder who might have taken part in that attempted coup, who might have stayed home but supported those who were there and who might try something similar, or worse, before the inauguration is over.
In the nation’s capital and its surrounding suburbs, the full damage caused on and around Jan. 6 is not yet known, and already the area is having to brace for what may come in the days leading up to the inauguration.
Residents who have not yet exhaled are again having to hold their breaths.
They are watching changes take place in their neighborhoods and among their neighbors.
Fences now exist where they once didn’t. People who had never considered needing protection now carry mace and bear repellent. And people are planning to keep their kids even closer than they might have on a normal pandemic day.
In a therapist’s office in the District sits a sleeping bag. Duncan Price, who offers mental health counseling, brought it from home in case he needed to stay the night in his office during the days surrounding Jan. 6. And it remains there, just in case he might need it in the days to come.
On Jan. 6, he considered staying in his office because he worried about leaving the area unwatched. He has befriended many of the people who sleep on the streets not far from his office, and he was worried about them. The Proud Boys, he says, have been known to stay in a nearby hotel and have harassed them in the past.
He spent Tuesday and Wednesday warning them about what might happen. He then decided to head home after the riot. On the morning of Jan. 7, he says, he received a call from a friend who works with the homeless, telling him they had once again become targets. Their tents and belongings had been tossed around and destroyed, he says.
When he got to the area to help, he says, people had already started fixing and replacing what had been damaged and lost. He also spoke to one man who had been inside his tent at the time. He wasn’t harmed, Price says, but he was “terrified the mob might go after him.”
Price says he remains worried what the inauguration might bring — and he is not alone. He has noticed an increase in people calling for his therapy services.
“It’s just this added a layer of stress and anxiety,” he says. He attended both inauguration ceremonies for President Barack Obama, and while he may go into his office that day next week, he doesn’t plan to go near the Mall. “That’s not a place where anyone should be.”
Some Washingtonians plan to stay even further away. They are packing up and heading out of state as troops roll in.
“I am seriously thinking about leaving the DC area during Inauguration week, and that makes me very sad,” wrote one person on Twitter.
“I originally wanted to be in DC for inauguration but now I’m really debating leaving the city early for weekend,” wrote another. “It’s wild here.”
There are of course plenty of stories of resiliency, of people who are pushing back against the hate and deciding they will not let those intent on destroying democracy take away the joy the inauguration should bring.
You just might not hear many of those. People are too scared right now to share them.
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