The events of January 6 left most of the nation at a standstill, but Architect of the Capitol (AOC) employees immediately went to work, restoring the building and grounds to their proper condition so that Congress could safely reconvene and inaugural preparations could get back on track.
Inside the U.S. Capitol
The HVAC Shop took on an unexpected role during the breach, providing access to their eye wash stations to U.S. Capitol Police officers who were affected by pepper spray or tear gas. "In that moment, it was kind of unbelievable what was unfolding. But as it's unfolding, you just want to make sure everybody was okay," said Clinton Johnson. "It felt good to be able to help, but I just wanted to get through it."
As an AOC employee for nearly 15 years, Johnson said it was hard to see the building in that condition. "But I know that the AOC has a great staff and I know that we can restore it back to what it was," he said. "We'll persevere."
Ricardo Mitchell with the AOC's Labor Division was also on-site that day with his team. "We were here that day of the event. We got evacuated out of the building just like everybody else," he said. "Once they got everything under control, we had to come back in the building and clean up the mess, because the Members were going to return to finish voting. We had to go into the chambers and prepare them so they would be able to come back."
"It was a lot of masks and a lot of broken glass, some broken furniture. They had to barricade the doors," he said. There was a lot of heavy lifting to get the House and Senate Chambers back in shape.
Mitchell found it appalling to see the state the U.S. Capitol was in. "We put hard effort in every day to keep this building maintained. It was a lot of debris, you know? And we had a short time to clean it up. But we just got it done. I have a hardworking team," he said.
"I applaud my team for being so dedicated," Mitchell said. "We had to stay here and work extra hours in order to get the job done. We knew how important it was."
Securing the Building
The Carpentry Shop was also involved in the immediate aftermath. "That night, we went around and assessed the broken windows and some of the broken doors, and tried to make sure the building was secure," said Jeff Walters.
Many of the windows that were broken weren't historic, but some of the interior, historic doors were damaged beyond repair.
"A lot of our job comes with unexpected challenges. There's not a whole lot that surprises us anymore, but seeing the overall condition of the building that night, that, I would have to say, was a bit shocking. I've been with the Architect of the Capitol for maybe 22, 23 years. So I've seen a lot of the things that have gone on here, but I've never seen the building in such disarray," said Walters.
Fortunately, Walters said, "I've got a crew that was with me that worked tirelessly to go out and get the things done that we knew had to be done. When we go around and look at something that needs to be repaired, we're always looking at the solution part of it and not really standing back saying 'Wow, I never thought that would happen.' We just look at it as something that needs to be done."
The U.S. Capitol Grounds
The grounds around the U.S. Capitol were also in need of serious clean-up by the Capitol Grounds and Arboretum team. "We understand that the landscape is the first thing that everybody sees when they come to Capitol Hill," said Jim Kaufmann. "Regardless of where they're going, what building they're going to, they're coming on to the landscape first, and that's their first impression of Capitol Hill."
On Thursday morning, the assessment of the grounds began. "Our team of arborists, masons, gardeners, laborers, mechanics, they were all involved in the clean-up effort, to try to clean as fast as possible," said Katie Serock.
"It was tough for the crew, because these are the areas, our grounds, that we preserve. That's why we're here,” said Kaufmann.
Serock agreed: "It's definitely disheartening to witness that," she said. "It's something that we care so much about. We are creating this vision for the entire country of having this pristine and organized U.S. Capitol. And when you see it go into disarray, it kind of sinks your heart a bit."
"We have great employees that step up to the plate and get the work done," said Serock. "That's our job and we want it to be as beautiful as possible."
Preparing for the Inauguration
With the inauguration on January 20, the AOC's preparations were already well underway. This includes the inaugural platform on the West Front, which the AOC builds from scratch for each inauguration.
"When I left there Wednesday, I was real happy and proud of our team," said Kevin Grooms, who works in the Paint Shop. The white paint on the inaugural stands was completely finished, and they had made it through nearly three-quarters of the blue detail work. "We worked until probably twelve o'clock Wednesday. And the blue paint that was on the deck was actually still wet."
"We came back on Thursday morning, and I mean, it was completely destroyed," he said. "It was just totally demolished. The blue wet paint, they tracked it all over."
There was also trash and debris covering the stands. "Besides the stands having a lot of debris on them, there was a lot of broken glass. And there was a significant amount of residue from the tear gas. It was very difficult cleaning up that area," said Serock, who noted that the U.S. Capitol Police provided important guidance on how to safely handle these items.
"It was a real mess, it was unbelievable. You just can't imagine," said Grooms. "We're still in shock over it." But his team worked through the weekend, "When I left there Sunday afternoon, that deck looked like it did Wednesday. Now, it's pretty much down to touch-ups."
This was a tremendous amount of work in a short amount of time for the team, but "that's just a small part," said Grooms, who pointed out that these efforts are going on across the AOC. "Everyone's doing the same type of thing, you know, everybody just wants to get everything done. We didn't want this to affect us."
Grooms also expressed thanks to the U.S. Capitol Police officers who told his team to evacuate the stands, where they had planned to work until dark that evening. "We would've been right in that mess if we wouldn't have pulled out when we did," he said. "I thanked the officers many times for that, for getting us out of there and out of harm's way."
The incredible efforts of employees across the AOC have not gone unnoticed. People all across America were able to take solace in seeing order restored to the U.S. Capitol by our hardworking employees.
Morgan Green helps monitor the AOC's web feedback inbox. Typically, she gets a slow trickle of logistical emails throughout the day, but in the past week, the inbox has been flooded with hundreds of messages of appreciation and offers of support.
"We've been sharing many of the messages with employees, and it has really helped raise the spirits of our staff to know that their work is appreciated," Green said.
One email resonated with our team, "I don't believe you hear it often enough, but what you do matters. It's not just what you were tasked with last week, but also what you do every day. It is more appreciated than you realize."
Thank you to all who have reached out to offer your encouragement. We humbly appreciate your support.
Throughout the remainder of the year we will share some of these special messages with you via #CapitolCompliments. Thank you for recognizing us and the work we do every day. Your support and encouragement has been invaluable! (2/2)— Architect of the Capitol (@uscapitol) February 11, 2021
My nephew used to be with you. He's now at Dumbarton Oaks. It was so disheartening to see what was done. I'm so impressed with how everyone stepped up to get things cleaned up. I can't wait for some semblance of normal to visit again. Good luck for the 20th! I know it will go well
Bless all of you for cleaning up that mess!
Everyone pitched in even if it wasn’t their job.
It was the right thing to do!
I would have been honored to help if I could
Great job team! As usual AOC employees come thru!
Thank you to all the AOC staff for safeguarding, preserving, cleaning, and maintaining that beautiful Capitol and its grounds. I’m so very sorry for the destruction. I’m also very proud of you all for your perseverance...a very American quality indeed! Best wishes to you all for a safe Inauguration Day.
Thank you for all you do always, but especially on that day, and all days since. Our thoughts are with you and our beautiful Capitol building. Please remain on guard, vigilant, FREE, and safe.
I, Robert Chapman, would like to thank you all for your service at the nation's Capitol building and grounds. May God continue to bless you all and the United States of America.
Thanks to all the Dedication A.OC Employees that have worked so very hard to repair
The people’s House.
To all the Employees at the AOC,
My son and I visited the Capitol in the Summer of 2019. As a fan of history, I was and am in awe of the history surrounding the building and grounds. I truly felt I was walking through history. I watched many of the AOC's videos on YouTube. The restoration of the dome was remarkable, and amazing. Watching your work I can see the craftsmanship, professionalism, and pride that goes with each job at the AOC. Your work is evident as I walked around the building and grounds.
When I heard the Capitol was stormed by protesters, I was hoping and praying none of the items that link us to our history were damaged. I haven't heard if any of the statues in the Statuary Hall collection were damaged. I have been hearing about what damage was done. I am in shock that the protesters were yelling "This is our House" yet they damaged anything in their path. I just wanted to stop and say, Thank you for taking care of the building and grounds. Your hard work bringing everything back to normal (as much as possible) is apperated. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed.
Simi Valley, Ca
Thank you so much for all of your efforts. Your consummate professionalism, dedication abs hard work does not go unnoticed abs the Senator and our staff greatly appreciate each and every one of you.
36.2 years in that building, it was like a knife in my back looking at that day I have many friends in AOC Kevin Grooms, Jeff Walters. DeWayne Thomas, On and On
I miss it always will. Be safe. Ralph
Bravo to the entire team at the Capitol. Thank goodness you brought back our incredible Capitol in record time!
AOC staff & Capitol Police, thank you all for protecting & persevering the Capitol & the occupants. Your dedication shows through everyday.
Wonderful job- my heart goes out to all of you who maintain the building and grounds- we are lucky to have you all there, doing what you do. Thank you!
Your work and dedication are really appreciated. Your passion for caring for the Capital and Grounds is remarkable and that’s what inspired me to apply to join AOC team. I hope to have the opportunity to join you soon! I would love to be part of this great group of men and women.
Thank you AOC staff for the work you do every day but especially for the work you all did this past week. You are appreciated.
I just want to thank you all. I vividly remember visiting the Capitol in my 6th grade trip to DC and was shocked and pained by the events of January 6. However, out of that darkness that I felt soon emerged a new fascination with the building and grounds and (despite a burning desire to find pictures of hideaway offices) a new respect for its sanctity as a temple to Liberty wherein the rituals of our Democracy are performed and the sacraments of our Republic administered. Thank you and your entire team for every thing you do every day.
Thank you thank you thank you to everyone at the capitol who cleaned up after the horrible events on January 6th! Thank you for everything else that you do on an ongoing basis
It was heart-breaking to see all the destruction, the threats to our representatives, their staffs, the Capitol Police, and DC, MD, and VA police guarding them. And to know that threats persist.
Thank you for preserving the beauty of the Capitol. It's an important symbol of our democracy and needs care. Thank you for all you do!
God bless the dedicated men and women of the AOC office. I believe there should be a special ceremony honoring you all and a special medal struck by Congress to commemorate your bravery and perseverance in the face of this terrible assault on our government.
Thank you for all you do.
Thank you for taking care of our Capitol.❤️
Thank you to the all the members of the AOC team for your hard work and dedication to preserving the Capitol Building, and persevering through the cleanup effort. -Katherine Elmore, Huntsville, AL
I am so moved by the staff's comments in this post. Each in it's own way saying I love my country; I take pride in the contribution I make. This is the spirit that makes America what it is meant to be, and gives me hope for the future. Thank you all so much.
Thank you for all your hard work. It is greatly appreciated.
Thank you for all your hard work! It is appreciated!
Until now, I didn't know who to thank for the quick clean up & restoration. I'm just so sorry about the damage that was done to such a special place. I can't even imagine how much your hearts hurt, when all of us watching on TV were devastated. Thank you so much for restoring our Capitol and for always doing such a beautiful job!!!
Thank you for your teams service and hard work
Just want to add my voice to the chorus of thanks. I am an artist and a carpenter and I can’t imagine waking to the destruction of something one puts all their heart into.
Thank you for your work and for maintaining a building that means so much to this country.
Stay safe and healthy,
Thank you for sharing these stories. After last Wednesday it’s a relief to remember that so many in our country still believe in service to it. Thank you for you hard work and patriotism.
Thank you to everyone!!! We see you and we appreciate your efforts each and every day, but especially after the insane events of last week. Take care!
We truly appreciate all your efforts to keep these historic buildings clean and ready for use. We too appreciate all efforts to keep the people of this great nation safe.
Thank you all for your great efforts at a difficult, but important moment in our Nation's history. You have succeeded against great odds to preserve and showcase to the world our democratic commemoration of our country's transfer of office.
As an architect, I appreciate all the work that goes into maintaining a building, especially one of such stature and historic importance. We appreciate all the workers who do this work everyday and their extra efforts following the events of the afternoon of Jan. 6th.
Thank you for all you did and continue to do.
Thank you to you all. It was so encouraging and inspiring and reassuring and comforting to see the House chamber cleaned up and ready for the certification business. It restored my fatith in my government being able to carry on despite the awful effort to stop it. Congratulations to you all. Judy Hart
To go to work everyday and do what you all do is such an honorable thing! As we all sat and watch in horror January 6 we cried as we watched these horrible mobs destroy out Capital. I would like to thank you so much for all the tremendous work you did with restoring our Capital. There aren’t enough words to express our gratitude to each and everyone of you. You all are in our hearts and prayers as you continue to work and care for the Capital. Be proud!!!!!!
In all my time working on the Hill and roaming the Capitol I never stopped feeling like I was in a special place. I treated every trip to the House Floor as a privilege—an opportunity to be where the country’s democracy, flawed as it is, lives and breathes. Thanks to all of the AOC staff who have cared for it all these years and a special thanks to those who put it back together so the business of the country could go on that night.
Thank You. From the bottom of my heart.
Your voices have restored to me something I now realize I lost a long time ago -- and that is faith in the profound decency of at least some of my fellow-Americans.
I want to thank all of the hardworking, dedicated staff that care about our treasure, the Capitol building of the United States. The events of January 6 paralyzed me, angered me, and brought a steady stream of tears for days. Where hate and disrespect and defiance and selfishness set out to destroy the physical embodiment of justice and history, you all did your jobs and the nation benefited, even those who didn’t deserve your loving care. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have avoided coming to DC for the last four years, but as a resident of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, my family and I will be regular visitors from now on. Thank you for being there when we weren’t. I make a pledge to seek out the employees at AOC each time I come and thank them personally. I am grateful for your safety. God bless you all.
Thank you for your work to present the United States' best image to the world. Thank you for all the effort to ensure that our history and our values are given a magnificent, physical form.
Thank you to all who stepped up after a trauma to make sure our constitution could be upheld. True heroes! You are appreciated!!
To all AOC staff,
Like all Americans I was shocked and devastated by the events of 1/6. I have been incessantly reading countless articles and stories of that day...shocked...horrified...grieving..
But this story that someone posted on Twitter is what opened the floodgates of tears..
THANK YOU to all the AOC staff for your hard work, dedication and strength for restoring the symbol of our democracy.
We are forever in your debt.
Thank you to all the staff for restoring our beautiful Capitol. Your hard work and care is so meaningful to every day citizens who love our Capitol and country and were appalled to see it desecrated. Thank you thank you!
What you do is so valuable, you make sure America shows it’s best to the world. I’m sorry you so often go unappreciated but I am deeply grateful especially after recent events.
We have been to the Capitol several times and have brought our children when they were younger. We had planned to bring our grandchildren in the next year. It is such a beautiful place because of the people taking care of it, and we applaud your work ethic and your courage. Please accept a heartfelt thank you. We would like to know what we can do to help you.
I cried reading this. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for all your hard work. The People's House is your house in a very special way, and you're amazing at taking care of it.
I had tears in my eyes reading this article about the work the AOC employees do everyday and what the staff has done to restore the Capitol building and grounds since the attack. Your work is incredible! You have each contributed to helping to settle our spirits by allowing us to see an image of a restored Capitol. This was so important to so many people. Thank you for your incredible efforts and your dedication to the job. Thank you for being proud of our Seat of Democracy and for treating it with the respect it deserves. Thank you for being some of America’s unsung heroes. God bless you all and keep you safe always!
Sincerely and with great respect,
Your fellow citizen
Thank you all fir your dedicated support to our nation’s symbols and preserving their legacy for future generations. You are the real Patriots. We all owe you immense gratitude for the care and love you put in. Be safe and be well in your work.
Thank you, AOC team! You are appreciated. You are important and needed. You do a great job. I hope your superiors notice it too and reward you.
Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication not only after the insurrection but every day. The beauty of our Capitol building is due in thanks to you. Your courage and extraordinary efforts on Jan 6th and the days that have followed deserve our deepest appreciation. The entire crew is amazing!
Thank you from Minnesota! Chelsea