What was it like being inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021? Kind of a blur. My colleagues and I on the congressional beat first got word that a House office building was under lockdown. Then, a couple of minutes later, we heard that the Capitol itself was going into lockdown. On the way to what would become my hiding spot, I watched as some rioters tried to smash their way through the front door on the east side of the Capitol. It was time to get behind a heavy door and keep my mouth shut.
I’ve been thinking a lot about those moments, trying to piece them all together as the one-year anniversary of the day approaches. But in going through my photos to stitch the memories into something coherent, I found that I didn’t need to. The Apple photos app had taken the initiative and done so itself, automatically creating a cute Memories video from my pictures that day.
That’s right: Scattered among other A.I.-synthesized slideshows of “Four-Legged Friends” or vacations over the years—Hawaii, how I miss you!—was that warmest of memories: “Washington, Jan. 6 2021.” Set to the cheery noodling of “Sunspots” by Bob Mould(!), the brief video captures my arrival on Capitol Hill at 11:30 a.m. and goes all the way to a window smashing at 2:19 p.m.
The video begins with a photo of the scooter (shut up) I took to the Capitol. To edit this out would be journalistic malpractice. Next, you see protesters on the East Front of the Capitol politely protesting behind the bicycle racks as a handful of police officers keep an eye out. From there, we catch a glimpse at the already-devolved situation on the West Front. Heading back 10 minutes later to the East Front, the protesters have come to the mass realization that bicycle racks and a few cops do not actually need to be an impediment for them to do what they want to do, and they become rioters. “Sunspots” fades out, and the rioters smash in.
Thanks, Apple photos app algorithm. Nothing captures the disturbing nature of the Jan. 6 insurrection like your sense of the surreal. In terms of rewatchability, though, I prefer the memory of my Lake Tahoe trip.