Since a Belleville-area man opened fire on a congressional baseball game practice one year ago, disrespectful rhetoric on the national stage is still too prevalent, local congressmen said as they reflected on the shooting.
James T. Hodgkinson's anti-Republican views were well-known among acquaintances, but no one could foresee that he would travel to Alexandria, Virginia, with a 7.62-caliber rifle and a 9-mm handgun. Those were the legally purchased weapons he used to shoot at congressmen, staffers and police at the ballpark.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, a Republican from Murphysboro, was not on the field that day, but his office had previously received at least nine letters from Hodgkinson.
"Maybe the groups that protest outside my office know where the line is. Public protest is your First Amendment right," Bost said. "Some people, hopefully very few, listen to the comments that are made and take them to that next extreme."
People at the park that day credit local and U.S. Capitol police for preventing Hodgkinson from killing anyone. U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise was badly injured, though he later returned to work after multiple surgeries and months of recovery. Hodgkinson died of a gunshot wound after police returned fire.
The assault came amid a nationwide tumult of protests and aggressive rhetoric surrounding GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Tensions were still high more than six months after the election of President Donald Trump, which sparked months of protests in the U.S. and abroad.
"The hate that Trump had been elected, protesters were in the streets at every district office," Bost said. "They were very, very, very active."
Some blamed the political left for drumming up tensions so far as to incite Hodgkinson's attack, but the message from lawmakers was clear: Americans should set aside their differences and strive for more respectful rhetoric.
Since then, a nationwide debate on gun control erupted and rhetoric became marked by high-profile name-calling matches, leading some to question if this is the new norm in American public discourse.
U.S. Rep Rodney Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, was on the field when Hodgkinson opened fire. Davis was one of the politicians who called for a more respectful rhetoric in the nation following the attack.
"One of the moments I remember most about that day is coming to the House floor at the time Speaker (Paul) Ryan and (House Minority Leader Nancy) Pelosi gave their great speeches," Davis said. "People were coming up after they were done almost in tears, saying they were trying to get a hold of me. That's what people don't see about Congress, about government. They don't see that we actually like each other."
Despite collegiality among congressmen, Davis says the country still hasn't come far enough in healing relations.
"I had hoped for more in the last year in moving forward, in getting the hate and vitriol out of politics and the political debate," Davis said.
Bost said it's "sad" to see personal attacks unfold on the national stage.
"I can argue and debate a bill passionately on the floor and that evening go out to dinner with that person I debated with," Bost said. "It’s sad to see whoever is doing it (making personal attacks). I understand being passionate about an issue, but when you start to make it personal, if you ever start making it personal, you lost the debate."
"But for some reason there are certain people who feel emboldened. They're so used to being on social media and feel like they can say whatever they want," Bost added.
St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson says he remembers that day with sadness. His deputies were some of the first to respond to Hodgkinson's home in rural Belleville.
"Where I live, I drive past their house at least 50 times a week," Watson said. "Every time I drive by I look and every time I think about the wife, the family and what they're going through. Even though it has been a year, people don't forget."
Watson, too, said people should respect their leaders, even if they disagree with them.
"Every tragedy hopefully has a greater outcome, and I hope that people will respect their politicians or their leaders," Watson said. "Maybe they don’t make the decisions they feel should be made, but you should at least respect what they’re doing."
Davis, too, called for renewed effort for Americans to set aside their differences.
"Obviously with the hate, the vitriol, the rhetoric we see in the political debate in society today, it's going to take all of us to come together and say this has got to stop," Davis said.
The country continues to struggle with a debate over gun control, one that still divides members of Congress. After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Davis said political and law enforcement leaders need to tighten security at schools and "do more to prevent mentally disturbed individuals from getting weapons."
"As someone who has survived, when you hear about a Parkland, about a Santa Fe (High School in Texas), my immediate reaction is reliving the terrifying 10 minutes I spent that morning dodging bullets from a madman I didn't know from Belleville," Davis said. "My heart goes out to those kids who were there who survived because they're going to wake up every morning with the same fears, the same triggers that lead to me immediately going back to that morning, the sounds, even the smells and really the fears ... and it breaks my heart to know that young kids are going to have to live through the memories same that I have to."
Since the shooting and even through the gun-control debate, Bost said he hopes the nationwide unrest has relaxed at least a little.
"I would like to say that everyone has calmed down, but there are some that are going to be what their personalities are," Bost said. "The real issue is is that somebody who had mental health issues picks up on an anger and runs with that. He (Hodgkinson) specifically planned, had the intention to do that."