It was late. It had been a long day filled near unbelievable events. In the wake of an ill-contained siege that left the U.S. Capitol building littered with detritus left behind by an unruly mob, New Jersey Representative Andy Kim was finally heading home after taking part in the vote to certify Joe Biden as the next U.S. President.
But the vision of his beloved institution laid waste by insurrectionists gave him pause. In the early morning hours, when Kim saw officers pitching in for grim cleanup duty, he simply joined them.
On his hands and knees, the two-term Democrat, who represents New Jersey’s 3rd District, set himself to the task at hand with solitary determination.
“I think it was 1 in the morning,” fellow New Jersey Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski said in an interview with AP. “There were a couple National Guardsman and I noticed somebody on his hands and knees leaning under a bench to pick something up and it was Andy all by himself, just quietly removing debris and putting it in a plastic bag. He was clearly not doing it for an audience… “It was for me the most poignant moment of the long night.”
At 1am last night, @RepMalinowski and I walked the Capitol to thank staff, police, and guardsmen and women for their service on a horrifying day. In a quiet Rotunda, we found our friend @RepAndyKimNJ alone, on his knees, picking up garbage left by the insurgents.
— Rep. Dean Phillips 🇺🇸 (@RepDeanPhillips) January 7, 2021
The son of Korean immigrant parents, Rep. Kim has an impressive CV. He’s the first Asian American to represent New Jersey in Congress. He’s also a University of Chicago graduate and Rhodes Scholar who was tapped by President Obama to serve as Iraq director for the National Security Council. (He’d previously held a similar role with the Pentagon.)
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But in the middle of the night, in the aftermath of the unthinkable, Rep. Kim’s prior laurels were irrelevant. For him, the imperative was making something right; restoring something that truly mattered. It was a small gesture perhaps, but one that symbolized something so much larger.
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“When you see something you love that’s broken you want to fix it. I love the Capitol. I’m honored to be there,” Rep. Kim said. “This building is extraordinary and the rotunda, in particular, is just awe-inspiring. How many countless generations have been inspired in that room? It really broke my heart and I just felt compelled to do something…
“What else could I do?”
Featured image: Twitter/@AndyKimNJ
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