Photographers on the scene shared the real story behind what went down at the Capitol.

Olivia Harvey
Updated Jan 08, 2021 @ 2:40 pm
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Update, January 8th, 2021: Photographers on the scene at the Capitol building confirmed to BuzzFeed News today, January 8th, that the photos of Senate aides carrying ballot boxes through the building were doing so before rioters arrived and not saving them from being destroyed.

Photojournalist Caroline Brehman told BuzzFeed News that she took similar photos of the ballot boxes being moved at around 12:57 p.m. ET but rioters hadn't pushed down the gates to get into the building until around 1:15 p.m. ET. She also noted that Electoral College votes are "always carried to the House chamber for the VP to count."

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley did tweet, though, on the afternoon of January 6th, that ballot boxes had been "rescued from the Senate floor" after rioters had broken into the building. He commended the "capable floor staff" for ensuring the safety of the ballots. Because of the work of everyone involved, the voting process was able to continue later that night, confirming Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice president of the United States.

Original Story, January 7th, 2021: The meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives at the nation's Capitol Building yesterday, January 6th, should have been a formality. During any other election process, Congress meets before the inauguration date of the next president of the United States to count the electoral votes and confirm his or her win. But yesterday, that didn't happen as planned. Not only was the confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden objected by several members of Congress, but the confirmation process was interrupted by Trump allies who breached the Capitol and wreaked havoc.

Among the photos of "patriots," as the violent rioters were calling themselves, lounging at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's desk, seating themselves at the vice president's post on the Senate floor, breaking windows and doors, and climbing the statues in Statuary Hall, there were also photos of the Senate aides who transported the crucial electoral ballot boxes out of the Capitol building before rioters had a chance to get their hands on the votes in an attempt to overthrow the 2020 election.

Senate aides carrying ballot boxes
Credit: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc, Getty Images

A photo of two women aides, each with a hand on one of the centuries-old ballot boxes, calmly escorting the fate of the U.S. out of the Capitol while it was under siege has gone viral, with many speculating that if it wasn't for the aides' quick thinking, the historic boxes and electoral ballots could have been burned.

As is tradition, the ballot boxes, each filled with the electoral votes from the 50 states, are transported to the Senate during the confirmation process at the conclusion of each election cycle. They are opened, the votes are counted by the vice president, and the winner of the election officially is declared.

If the rioters, with an aim to prove the election was rigged, fraudulent, or actually ended with a Trump win, were able to secure these boxes, it's hard to imagine what further chaos could have ensued.

The aides made sure they continued to do their job amid the security breach, thus saving America's democratic process. Because of their actions and calmness, many on social media are calling them the true heroes who prevailed on this dark day in American history.

"I love this picture," one Twitter user wrote. "Bright, thoughtful young women serving as Senate aides, probably not much older than myself, carrying the electoral votes off of the Senate floor while it was under siege."

There were several other aides besides the two women pictured who were also part of the Republic-saving escape, and we thank all the aides involved in shuttling the electoral votes out of the Capitol for their courage and swift action.

Senate aides carrying ballot boxes
Credit: Olivier DOULIERY / AFP, Getty Images

Though the country is still reeling over what happened yesterday, the confirmation process was able to be completed late last night, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be inaugurated on January 20th. Thanks to those Senate aides, U.S. Democracy continues to move forward.