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Former Lynchburg resident living in D.C. explains what she experienced on January 6

Former Moore County resident and 1988 graduate of MCHS Pamela Pipes now lives in Washington D.C. She witnessed the events of January 6 first hand. (Photo Provided)

July 4, 1776 … January 1, 1863 …September 11, 2001 … these dates are instantly recognizable to most Americans. As the story of last Wednesday continues to develop, January 6, 2021 will likely join those infamous dates as one defining American history.

A timeline of January 6, 2021

Around 6 a.m., thousands of Donald Trump supporters began to gather near the White House and National Mall for the Stop the Steal Rally. Organizers scheduled it to begin around 11 a.m and President Trump began speaking just before noon.

“Our country has had enough,” Trump told the crowd. “We will not take it anymore, and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal.”

Whether he meant those words to incite the crowd or they were simply fiery rhetoric will be debated in the public square for a long time. Regardless, after he uttered them, the crowd — many waving Trump flags and others dressed in tactical gear — headed toward the Capitol Building. When they arrived, some remained on the grounds and protested peacefully while others had a different plan.

By 1 p.m., portions of that crowd stood on the Capitol steps facing off with law enforcement who attempted to block their entrance. By 1:30 p.m., they’d muscled their way through the east entrance and into Statuary Hall. Thirty minutes later, others in the crowd breached the west side of the Capitol and both seemed headed toward the House and Senate chambers where members of Congress were executing the official Electoral College vote count. As those outside chanted, “hang Mike Pence,” Secret Service whisked the Vice President to safety and instructed members of both chambers to shelter in place for their own safety.

All this happened as a shocked nation watched on social media as well as television and those who work and live in D.C. fled to safety.

A local perspective from a former Lynchburg resident

Former Lynchburg resident Pamela Pipes was one of them. A 1988 graduate of Moore County High School, Pipes made her way to D.C. via North Carolina after attending the University of Florida in Gainesville where she studied American Sign Language.

We reached out to her on social media to give us some insight as to what it was like to witness the events of January 6 first hand.

Lynchburg Times: How did you get to Washington D.C. and what do you do there?

Pipes: In North Carolina, I pursued a second degree in sign language interpretation. My dream job has always been to be a sign language interpreter. To put myself through school, I started working part time at Starbucks. I thought it would be a means to an end but found out that with 20 hours a week, I could get full benefits. So I moved forward working at Starbucks and interpreting — working two jobs part time. Then in 2018, Starbucks decided to open its only United States signal language store in Washington D.C. and I moved here. My goal in October of 2018 was to stay here for one year and help the new store get off the ground. By 2019, I was so in love with this city that I decided to stay.

LT: Did last Wednesday feel monumental to you leading up to the events or just like any other day?

Pipes: I had strong concerns. Was I fearful? No. Was I concerned and paying attention? Yes.

Pipes says she gets up a sunrise six days a week to exercise. Based on the vibes leading up to January 6, she decided to take Wednesday as her rest day and just stay inside.

LT: Where were you when things escalated at the Capitol Building and how did what was happening alter your day?

Pipes: I’m currently doing virtual sign language interpreting for the local public school system. Normally, I interpret at an elementary level but that day they asked me to interpret for a high school government class. The subject that day was our two party system.

Pipes says she knew it would be an extraordinary day even by D.C. standards. The Stop the Steal Rally was happening and Vice President Mike Pence planned to be on The Hill for a joint session of Congress and the vote count.

Pipes: When Pence is on The Hill, it’s a big deal. The rally added to the excitement, so I could feel all of that building up but I didn’t expect what happened. No.

Pipes says as she interpreted virtually inside her basement level D.C. apartment, she could witness things developing through the street level window opposite her desk.

Pipes: I live in a very residential neighborhood called Capitol Hill less than 10 blocks from the Capitol. It’s little row homes and nannies out pushing strollers in the middle of the day. It’s usually very quiet. So when I saw one police vehicle, then a second, and then an ambulance I knew something was going down. When I finished my session, I looked at my phone and my notifications said protestors had breached the Capitol. It was a 9/11 moment for me.

Pipes says Wednesday brought the same disbelief she felt on September 11 when a plane hit the Pentagon with her father Dr. John Pipes, inside. Dr. Pipes worked at AEDC as an Aerospace Engineer when the Pipes family lived in the Ledford Mill area of Moore County. He then took a spot at SAIC in Huntsville before landing at the Department of Defense.

Pipes posts photos of Washington D.C. nearly every day on her social media and the iconic Capitol Building seems to be one of her favorite subjects. (Photos Provided)

LT: We follow you on social media and you post wonderful, iconic shots of your current city almost everyday. It’s clear you have a love affair with the place. Can you speak to that?

Pipes: This city is absolutely more than I could have imagined. It’s much more outdoor friendly that I expected. It’s definitely a walking city. The beauty of the horticulture here — the gardens, the green spaces — as well as the iconic buildings … it’s just this melding of the architecture and the outdoors. It feels obvious to me that our founders were very proactive about creating a special space.

The photos started out as just a me thing but then I received such an overwhelming positive response from my friends that I just kept going. Then COVID hit and people just really needed to see something pretty, so I dialed it up a notch.

LT: The Capitol Building seems to be one of your favorite photography subjects. Can you tell us what makes it so special to you?

Pipes: Again, the architecture just blends beautifully with the surrounding open green spaces. I see these things daily. The beauty of that space with the sacred idea behind it is just special. Every time I see that building, it just fills me with hope. I can’t look at it every day and not be inspired with the “today we’re going to get it right, America” energy. That’s what that building represents to me — the idea that we can have a difference of opinion, two sides if you will, but we can also bring it together for the greater good.

Pipes says she still remembers being in Washington D.C. in 1988 during the annual MCHS Senior Trip and loves comparing images from then and now.

Pipes: I never expected to fall in love with it this much but I did.

LT: Your daily walks are a ritual for you. How has the scenery changed since January 6?

Pipes: I didn’t leave my apartment Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. I stayed inside for 72 hours because of what happened. I went for a walk on Saturday and the landscape has definitely changed.

Pipes says fencing and concrete walls now surround the Capitol on all sides keeping folks both local and visiting far away from it. She also says there is a glaringly obvious National Guard presence in D.C. with two soldiers seemingly posted every 50 feet or so.

LT: What does is feel like to know that bombs, Molotov cocktails, and a functioning gallows complete with noose were found after the events of January 6?

Pipes: It does not feel good. It’s gotten to be very scary. The FBI also asked everyone in my neighborhood to submit their Nest and security footage from January 6 and there’s a reward for any information that leads to an arrest. I’m now living in neighbor where the FBI is actively looking for clues. That doesn’t feel great.

Pipes says that Tuesday morning she herself noticed and reported an abandoned backpack near the a building on First Street that faces the Capitol.

“It just looked out of place,” she said. “But I didn’t stick around. I’ll never know if it was a thing. I just reported it and kept on walking.”

Pipes says she fully supports the rights of Pro-Trump folks to protest but it’s the guys dressed in all black tactical gear who seem to be highly organized that get her attention.

“The majority of the people I’ve seen as these MAGA marches are just people coming to D.C. to exercise their First Amendment rights,” she says. “It’s the ones that are highly organized, systematic, and strategic that I think we have to worry about. They also stand out. They clearly aren’t protestors and obviously not locals.”

LT: Can you juxtapose the vibe in D.C. prior to January 6 and after? Is there a different feel now or is it business as usual.

Pipes: It is not the same. It is not business as usual. Obviously, the National Guard presence and the fencing leave little uncertainty that things are changing. Everybody is hyper aware.

LT: Many fear that because those who forced their way into the Capitol have yet to face consequences that they’ll be back on Inaugural Day but possibly armed this time. Can you speak to that?

Pipes: That’s my biggest concern. I’m now anxious about January 17 – 20. January 17 is now the publicized date for the so-called Million Militia March meant to be a series of protests leading up to the Inauguration on January 20.

Though Pipes admits she’s left leaning on social issues but mostly center, she says that regardless of who won, she was excited to attend her first Inauguration but now her plans have evolved first by COVID and now by the riots at the Capitol.

“I just can’t go knowing that between my front door and the Capitol Building there could be potential bombs,” she says. “And that my America right now as I speak to you. I have to worry about bombs in my quiet little neighborhood. It just makes me sad.”•

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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