It Was This Close to Being So Much Worse

Adam Chandler
3 min readJan 11, 2021


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There’s a lot of news out there and a new fried chicken sandwich to deconstruct society by, but I’m stuck on last week’s disaster. (By the way, I think we should all probably be stuck on last week’s disaster,)

What’s been rattling around for the past few days is how, in spite of the many benumbing details from last week’s coup attempt, it still could have been much worse. And as more reporting comes out, we’re learning just how narrowly an even bigger catastrophe was avoided-on both a micro and macro scale.

The Senate Chamber

In the 12 hours or so, praise for Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman has been growing as we (slowly) understand more about what exactly happened. In Goodman’s case, he was alone and had only a baton to defend himself from dozens of rioters/domestic terrorists who had breached the Capitol and were making their way up the stairs toward the Senate chamber.

Goodman baited the mob in part by shoving back the lead rioter and goading them to follow him away from the entrance. (Let’s just say it: He is Black and the mob was all white men.) From The Washington Post, which had an exhaustive recap of the attack:

Had the rioters turned right, they would have been a few feet away from the main entrance into the chamber. On the other side of that door, had they made their way into the Senate, were at least a half-dozen armed officers, including one with a semiautomatic weapon in the middle of the floor scanning each entrance for intruders.

The Post adds, “According to the contemporaneous notes of a Washington Post reporter inside the chamber, it was mere seconds of a differential: ‘2:15 p.m., Senate sealed.’” (On Twitter, Bobic explained that he captured this image at 2:14 p.m., which means the Senate was still not secure when Goodman was in the stand-off.)

In short, Goodman almost certainly saved several lives of those who, ironically, were at best indifferent to his.

The Macro Threat

If you’ve been glued to the news, you’ve heard harrowing accounts from congressional staffers, who spent hours under the desks and in their offices, calling for help, texting loved ones, listening to insurrectionists roam the halls outside, pounding on doors, destroying property, and shouting death threats.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be hearing more about the failure of intelligence, federal obstruction, the weirdly/not-so-weirdly compliant police, and the retired (and maybe even active) military participants in the chaos. Following a call with the Secretary of the Army, Representative Jason Crow from Colorado also detailed some stunning items recovered from the Capitol that hint at larger plans: Long guns, explosive devices/pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails, and zipties for possible hostage-taking.

With dozens of domestic terrorism charges being filed against the rioters, this is more than just conjecture. According to filings, one 70-year-old man drove up to DC from Alabama in “a red GMC Sierra pickup packed with an M4 assault rifle, multiple loaded magazines, three handguns and 11 Mason jars filled with homemade napalm.”

Another late-arriving, would-be terrorist from Georgia faces charges after being discovered with “a compact Tavor X95 assault rifle, a 9mm Glock 19 handgun and about 100 rounds of ammunition.” (He also had a bizarro cache of weed edibles and injectable testosterone.)

Shout-out to the Associated Press, for these details and their prodigious use of visual bleeps in describing his texts, which further clarify what some hoped might happen:

Headed to DC with a (s — ) ton of 5.56 armor-piercing ammo,” he texted friends and relatives on Jan. 6, adding a purple devil emoji, according to court filings. The following day, he texted to the group: “Thinking about heading over to Pelosi (C — ‘s) speech and putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV.” He once again added a purple devil emoji, and wrote he might hit her with his truck instead. “I’m gonna run that (C — ) Pelosi over while she chews on her gums. … Dead (B — ) Walking. I predict that within 12 days, many in our country will die.”

Given what did happen, it feels ridiculous to say this but, for now at least, we got very lucky.

Originally published at



Adam Chandler

Journalist. Author of Drive-Thru Dreams. The Atlantic alum. Work in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Texas Monthly, and elsewhere.