Students, teachers react in real time to historic day

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U.S. Capitol. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

Abby Wolf staff writer

News of a domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol building broke during fourth period on Jan 6, a day President-elect Joe Biden referred to as “one of the darkest days in the history of our nation.”

Earlier that morning, President Donald Trump held a “Save America March,” in which he told supporters, “Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. After this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you.” After President Trump’s speech concluded, thousands of his supporters marched down to the Capitol building as senators and representatives met to certify President-elect Biden’s electoral vote win. They stormed the building leaving five dead, including one Capitol police officer beaten to death by a mob of angry rioters. 

As word spread of the siege, students still sitting in class reacted in various ways. 

“I’d say that when I first saw the news, I immediately pulled up the live stream,” junior Eli Ramer said.

Sophomore Rebecca Katz carried a feeling of shock with her throughout the day.

“Receiving the news during class that Trump-supporting Republicans were rioting at the Capitol building was surreal and made it difficult to focus on lectures,” Katz said. 

Like many teachers, history teacher Pete Van Rossum halted his prepared lesson to talk about the breaking news.

“It was quite an experience, as I was actually teaching my period 4 econ class…when it all came down. I decided to delay introducing econ since Congress was meeting to verify the results, and that alone was a significant event under the current circumstances. That was the intended topic, but by the end of the period, of course, we saw an attempted insurrection in real time,” Van Rossum said. 

Later in the day and in the days following, teachers took the time to discuss the riots..

“I did address all of my classes about it that afternoon or the next day, and dedicated a significant amount of time to discussing it,” Van Rossum said. 

Students appreciated this opportunity to talk about the subject. 

“The next morning, my APUSH teacher talked about it with us for a good amount of time,” Ramer said. “I felt like that conversation was very beneficial to everyone in the class as it allowed them all to vent and discuss the feelings they were having.”

Katz explained how helpful speaking about the event was in accepting and digesting what had occurred. 

“I really appreciated taking the time during class to talk about what was going on,” Katz said. “Having discussions with teachers and students about the situation made it clear just how hard it is to accept this violent attempt to undermine democracy.”

Many, including Van Rossum, saw Jan. 6 as a day that will go down in history. 

“Pretty crazy,” Van Rossum said about the domestic terrorist attack. “But I will never forget teaching a subject and watching it turn into a historical event in real time.” 

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