Capitol police and the scars of the January 6 riot
Edwards was one of many members of the force who suffered concussions; of the seven or eight officers of Gonell’s squad who served on the 6th, there were three, and a possible fourth. By March, Devan Gowdy had passed the acute phase of his concussion: sleeping around the clock, waking up from nightmares that left him in the grip of feelings of murderous rage. Yet he knew he wasn’t himself, or the me he was before the 6th. An exceptionally sensitive person – his best friend, growing up, was the old antique dealer who lived next door. – he had become someone who could be agitated with fury. He often woke up crying, turning to his fiancée in bed to tell her how scared he was, even though he couldn’t identify any threats.
Nicole’s husband also showed unusual volatility, his anger at times explosive. She did not hold her husband responsible for it. She believed that if she could just be even more organized, control any possibility of chaos – as if the chaos of life with three children could be controlled – she could spare her husband the stress exposure, spare them all of his reactions to it. this stress. So she stayed up late, folding every piece of laundry, writing more lists for the week ahead, making sure her son’s baseball uniform was where it needed to be so that there was no last minute panic, no hassle, no explosions.
By early spring, some of the officers who were on leave were starting to return. But her husband was still receiving treatment for his brain injury, mental exercises to help restore his balance which left him nauseous and exhausted. He had blackouts; he was frustrated by these blackouts. Complicated paperwork like the one she was always filling quickly overwhelmed her, so she stopped trying to explain the mind-numbing and obscure logistics of her medical care. He was still on the group texts his friends at the North Barricade Crew sent regularly, but since he had been gone for so long he didn’t always know what they were talking about.
On April 2, Nicole’s family and in-laws were in Luray Caverns, outside of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, trying to distract her husband from his problems, when she saw him. check his phone. Then he was on the ground, a tall, heavy man with a long beard, fallen to his knees. The texts were arriving: there had been an attack on the Capitol. Two men from the north barricade were injured, one much worse than the other. One of them was Billy Evans. It was a knife – no, it was a man with a gun. No, a car hit them, colliding directly with Evans. This has been confirmed. Nicole’s own phone started ringing with messages from other officers and lieutenants that she had to prepare – her husband – for the worst. Her husband told his parents to take the kids to the gift shop, then he stayed where he was, crying uncontrollably over a railing. He regained his composure enough to get in the car, but it was impossible to maintain when, a few minutes after the start of the journey, he received the text: Billy was gone.
As a business out of habit, Anton usually parked his Jeep on Delaware Avenue, right next to the north barricade where Billy Evans was killed. He lived only 15 minutes away, and he often felt, when he arrived, that he had never left work. In April he was still working an endless series of 12-hour shifts with rare days off. Especially after Evans’ death, a sense of dread came over him with such force that he sometimes found it difficult to leave his car. He tried to appeal to reserves of discipline. “May we pass all the tests,” he said as he arrived, preparing for the grueling day ahead. It was something that he and his mother, who had raised him Baptist, used to say every time he had a big exam or some other challenge, and they always said it together, three times, half singing. , half praying. As he removed the key from the ignition, he sometimes could only say it once before he felt something give way, the emotional equivalent of his knees buckling. He walked towards the Capitol, pacing back and forth as he approached the street he had to cross. By the time the light turned red, he had wiped his face and prepared to enter the building.
Anton wondered how long he could continue working. He had always enjoyed perfect health, but now he had heart palpitations several times a day which forced him to stop whatever he was doing; more than once he wondered if he might be having a heart attack. Her sleep was irregular, her blood pressure and cholesterol were very high.
Like many other officers, he found Caroline Edwards returned to work in May to boost morale. Due to her injuries, she was assigned a clerical job, but she had also taken on an additional role that came naturally to her – becoming a peer counselor, someone officers could confide in. She had previously operated informally in this capacity, reaching out to Nicole’s husband to offer him anything she could share about traumatic brain injury and sending Shannon Terranova, the grieving former wife of Billy Evans, thoughtful gifts for their children.