The following piece contains opinions that do not reflect the views of WMBD.

WASHINGTON — The January 6 Commission public hearings begin on Thursday, and it has me reflecting on my own experience that day.

Yes, I was on Capitol grounds on January 6. Before I moved to Peoria to work at WMBD-TV, I lived in Washington, D.C. for a year and a half while I obtained my master’s degree in journalism and public affairs at American University.

It happened to be my very last week living in D.C.

That morning, I watched events unfold on live television. Things were going downhill so fast, that I had to check it out.

Since I lived just a stone’s throw from the Capitol, it took me all but 15 minutes to get down there. I got there at about 2:40 p.m. and parked on Independence Avenue, at the foot of Capitol Hill.

The first thing I noticed was the sheer number of charter buses around the city. Obviously, lots of tour buses in Washington D.C. are a normal thing, but I’m talking every major street, every side street, was lined with charter buses. How did they all get here?

I walked up the hill to the Capitol grounds, keeping a safe distance from the huge crowd, and started filming and taking pictures.

It was LOUD. There were thousands of Trump supporters.

I witnessed screaming, and cheering, people on scaffolding, using megaphones. Many seemed angry, but I did not witness any violence, as I was not close enough.

Make no mistake, this was no protest.

I had to be somewhere at 4 p.m. that day, so at about 3:30 p.m., I started making my way down to the car. At this point, there were tons of police cars up and down Independence Ave.

I had to go around a building to get to my car because part of Independence Ave. had caution tape. I later found out it was because they had found bombs planted near the Democratic headquarters.

At about the same time, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser set a 6 p.m. curfew for the city. At this point, I headed to my appointment in Arlington, Virginia, which is across the bridge from D.C.

I felt like I had just entered a different world.

My last few days in D.C. were marked by a fenced Capitol surrounded by the National Guard, empty streets, high security, and a general sense of uneasiness about the country.

It was such a contrast from 2019, when I would saunter to Capitol Hill and go through minimal security to report on committee hearings once a week as part of my graduate studies. The pandemic came and shut everything down, but the aftermath of January 6 further hardened the city to keep residents safe.

No matter your political stripes, I think every American should want to know what led up to such a dark day in our nation’s history, at minimum, to find out what happened, so it can never happen again.