Merkley said he went to work just before 8 a.m. Wednesday and was immediately greeted with the news of the shooting, which left five people injured and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise in critical condition.
“I saw somebody looking at their phone and exclaiming that something terrible had happened,” Merkley told NBC5 News. “It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I learned about the shooting.”
In the hours following the shooting, Merkley said the focus wasn’t on politics.
“I think immediately, people were holding this situation and the members and the lobbyists and the Capitol Police in our hearts and in our prayers.”
Following the shooting, Merkley said he had the opportunity to speak with some of the congressmen who were on the ballfield.
“They’re pretty shook up. [They] hit the ground. The shots were ringing out. They don’t know if someone’s walking the field shooting people who were on the ground. It was terrifying. Terrifying for individuals. They had no idea how this was going to unfold.”
The Senator said, as investigators learn more and the victims heal, the incident will continue to have an impact in Washington and in politician’s home states. Safety will continue to be top of mind.
“We all publicize what we’re doing back home and often here at the capitol,” Merkley said. “We just have to cultivate a culture that violence is absolutely unacceptable… here in the United States of America.”