Bill Barnes said he was no longer interested in watching history unfold in front of him without taking part.

The 61-year-old Manteno man was also not interested in hiding behind a keyboard and a monitor tossing out his opinions and views regarding the goings-on in Washington, D.C., in these turbulent times.

At the urging of a friend, Barnes traveled to the nation’s capital Tuesday and had a front-row seat to the national drama which played out the next day before its citizens. Barnes was on hand Wednesday at the Capitol building when protesters breached an under-manned security force and entered the halls of Congress while lawmakers were attempting to certify the Electoral College vote.

“I wanted to put my money where my mouth is and not just toss my opinions out there behind some social media post,” Barnes explained Thursday while on a flight layover in Atlanta as he was making way back to Manteno this week. “Where I see this country is headed — which is not in a good direction — I wanted to say I care. The silent majority can longer just sit back.”

A 1977 graduate of Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School and a business development manager for an international manufacturing company, Barnes explained he was perhaps 200 yards away from the Capitol building when some crowd members took matters into their own hands.

The security breach caused both chambers of Congress to evacuate to a secure location, delaying the vote certification process for several hours.

Barnes said he firmly believes those who breached the Capitol were not in support of President Donald Trump.

He said those in support of Trump who attended Tuesday night’s Freedom Mall rally, which he estimated was attended by 15,000 to 20,000 people, were highly emotional as they listened to former U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Trump confidant Roger Stone talk about the nation.

“I got choked up,” Barnes said. “This is what America is about. It was a crowd in which everyone had gathered peacefully. People were praising God, freedom. There were no scuffles. There were no problems. ... I never felt threatened. I never felt scared. It was all so peaceful.”

Until it wasn’t. On Wednesday morning, however, protesters breached the Capitol Building as Congress was tallying Electoral College votes.

‘IT WAS AN AWAKENING’

Barnes said he does not describe himself as a Republican, although he certainly voted for Trump.

“I’m an independent. I voted for [President Barack] Obama the first time. But I didn’t like the direction our country was taking with him.”

So when he was asked to head to D.C. for this past week’s events, Barnes booked an airline ticket and a hotel room. The friend had to back away from the trip, so Barnes decided to go it alone. Once he arrived in D.C., he quickly realized he was far from alone.

Although he spent perhaps a total of 40 hours in the nation’s capital from the time his plane landed to the time it departed for home, Barnes said the two-day experience is one he will never forget nor one he will ever regret having — even though between airfare, food and lodging he spent about $800.

“I would say it was an awakening for a lot of people who have had enough of what is being shoved down our throats,” he said. “If we don’t begin to stand up and become involved in this political process, we are all going to be controlled. Our presence has to be felt.

“I believe these two days were successful, just like Trump’s last four years in office. He exposed the corruption in Washington.”

Barnes quickly responded to the question of what he will take away from the rallies he attended and the people he met.

“I was inspired. I was proud. I was touched. And I was overwhelmed at times. This is what being an American is like,” he responded. “I’m more inspired now than ever.”

Barnes said his two-day stay was far more than he could ever imagined.

“I would say it was a life-changing event,” he said. “It was one of the events which I know will inspire me to continue to fight on. Who knows, maybe I’ll try to get involved in politics. This battle is not over. It was [former United Kingdom Prime Minister] Winston Churchill who said, ‘Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.’ I’m not going to accept what people in Washington or in Springfield tell us to do. They work for us; we don’t work for them.”

While the trip would be best described as eye-opening to Barnes, he said he wasn’t there for himself.

“I went there for our children, for the future of our country,” he said. “What I see happening in Washington is not good. Our liberties are being taken away. People are being programmed to be fearful. You can see it in their eyes.”

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.