It was late. It had been a long day, filled with surreal events.
In the wake of an ill-contained siege that left the U.S. Capitol building littered with broken furniture and debris from 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.
Walking down the halls of his beloved democratic institution, he saw officers assigned to the grim duty of cleaning up.
He felt a “heightened, supercharged kind of patriotism” and was stirred to join them.
The two-term Democrat who represents New Jersey’s 3rd District, grabbed a trash bag and—still dressed in his suit and tie—began picking up trash.
“I think it was 1 in the morning,” said his fellow New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski, in an interview with AP. “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…. It was, for me, the most poignant moment of the long night.”
The son of Korean immigrant parents, Rep. Kim’s credentials are impressive. 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.)
But in the middle of the night, in the aftermath of the unthinkable, Rep. Kim’s resume was 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.
“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?”