By Eliel Ramirez
Whether you call it a protest or a riot, those who besieged the United States Capitol building on January 6 are ingrained into the nation’s history, and for deputy press secretary Megan Quinn it is a day that she will never forget.
Quinn graduated from Georgia Southern University in May of 2019, and for months leading up to her graduation she received no luck in snagging a job.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2019 that a family friend, who happened to be congressman Doug Collins of Georgia’s 9th district at the time, offered her to be a press intern in his office.
After the internship ended she got the opportunity to work for Southern Company as a staff assistant for their government affairs office in DC.
She worked there for around six to seven months, but she wanted more. Her goal was to join the rest of her friends at Capitol Hill.
In February of 2020, just before the nation shut down because of the pandemic, she got a job at Capitol Hill as a staff assistant for Congressman Jody Hice of Ga.’s 10th district.
Quinn worked as staff assistant until Jan. 2021 when she got promoted to deputy press secretary in his office. She does a lot there like writing press releases, newsletters, managing the congressman's Instagram, Facebook and assisting with his Twitter.
But before her promotion, an event occurred that she says she can remember vividly.
“We were in the office that day (Jan. 6th),” Quinn said. “I remember it very clearly, we all knew that things could get bad but not bad as they did.”
Security was heightened much more than usual. She said they would normally walk in and go through a TSA style security, but this day there were guards at the barricades surrounding the capitol and checking ID’s before they were able to enter the building and go through the regular security check.
While at work, her legislative director asked her to go to the capitol building to retrieve something.
Quinn went to the basement where there are tunnels that connect their offices to the capitol. She had to go through security once again, but on that day, she was unusually turned around by the guards because her office is in the Cannon House Office building and didn’t have an office in the building itself.
While returning to her office she says things were a bit weird in the tunnels. There was a noticeably heightened presence of capitol police and they all seemed a little on edge.
“I get back to Cannon and up the elevator to the fourth floor and as I step out of the elevator there are capitol police banging on the doors down the hallway from me,” she said. “I go to my chief of staff and I tell him ‘there are policemen banging on the doors down the hallways, I think we are about to get evacuated.”
She said that they weren’t too concerned because it was around noon and the crowd hadn’t quite made its way down to the capitol so they weren’t sure why they were evacuating.
Following orders, they went down to the basement and they walked past the Longworth House Office building and into the Rayburn House Office building. They walked into one of the foyer rooms with a large window and there they had a clear view of the main capitol building.
Through that window they were able to see the crowd form and were able to hear flash bangs from the police trying to disperse the crowd.
She described it as “unnerving” seeing the police that she had full faith in trying to keep things under control. They have a system that sends text messages in emergency situations informing them when a situation is under control or other scenarios.
Around 12:30 in the afternoon, Quinn’s chief received a text giving them the clear to return to their office building.
Once back in their office, still shaken up, but not too concerned because they still didn’t know about the pipe bombs at that point, they resumed their day as normal.
Phone calls were pouring in and she was on the phone with a gentleman from Georgia who was angry and wanted answers about what was going on.
After a few seconds on the phone with him, a policeman came in and told them they had to evacuate and she said that the urgency was much more than before.
She tried to end the phone call in a nice manner while letting the man know they were being told to evacuate.
The man asked her what was going on but she responded that she didn’t know and as she was trying to end the call. Her communications director forced her to do so when he yelled at her to hang up the phone.
She grabbed her stuff and they all went back down to the basement and towards Rayburn, but this time they went further down to a place she said she had never been before.
“We go up one floor in an elevator and end up by the Committee of Oversight and Reform hearing room which is the room that you see on CSPAN and things like that,” Quinn said. “We were in the minority staff room and there were about 15 of us in total and we barricaded ourselves in this room.”
Around this time is when the chambers were breached by the protesters.
“At this point I was walking back and forth in that room calling family and friends,” she said. “My dad asked me if I was okay, and I kinda broke down and told him I was scared and terrified.”
After five hours of being stuck in that room, a voice on the intercom said everything was clear and that they could return back to their offices.
After arriving at the offices, under the impression they were able to leave to go home, she went to get her roommate, who works at Longworth. They then headed to the parking garages where they were met with intimidating FBI and police officers with machine guns, dressed in riot gear, and were told to go back until given the clear to leave.
Around 8:30 p.m., two more hours stuck in the office, they received a text message saying they were now clear to leave but she couldn’t get her car out, so they ended up having to walk home. The barricades set around the capitol grounds meant they had to go all the way around instead of just walking straight to their home.
Once she arrived at her house, she said she had a moment of exhaustion but thankfully her boss allowed them to sleep in and arrive late to work the next day.
“I spent about two weeks after that, dealing with panic attacks, not being able to sleep, not being able to eat and constantly stressing out, basically up until inauguration because that was another big day of potential protest and riots, thankfully none of that happened,” she said. “I think once we got over inauguration I felt much better about the situation and I was able to recover.
Although not clinically diagnosed, she feels like she suffers from some PTSD, because it was very scary.
Now they have to have armed national guards on-site ever since the siege on January 6th and there are 8-foot-tall fences surrounding a huge barrier with razor wire at the top. She said it’s daunting and not the most fun thing to see everyday.
“The environment has changed,” she said. “Extremely heightened security, we cannot bring guests or visitors in the office buildings, much less the capitol and we have to go through ridiculous hoops just to get them their ID.”
She believes that the siege has deepened the divide between political parties and wishes like to see “a little more bi-partisanship, but like all wounds, it’ll take time to heal.”
“I also need to make clear that everything I have said is purely my experience and opinion and does not reflect that of the Congressman or anyone that was with me on that day,” Quinn said.