Kildee opens up about his post-traumatic stress since Jan. 6 Capitol attack

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee is speaking publicly for the first time about his post-traumatic stress after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and how his weekly therapy sessions have helped him.

In an interview that aired Sunday on "NBC Nightly News," Kildee said when he went home to Michigan following the insurrection, he was anxious, irritable and felt a tightness in his chest that affected his breathing.

"I thought it was fine. It was after I got home, when I started looking at some of the video from the event — I had thought it was a few dozen people. It was hundreds and hundreds of violent people, and that triggered an emotional, physical reaction." 

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, at center, opened up to NBC about seeking out help for the post-traumatic stress he experienced after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He did an interview with his psychiatrist, Dr. Jim Gordan, at left, that aired April 11, 2021.

The Flint Township Democrat had been among the members of Congress trapped in the House gallery on Jan. 6 as rioters tried to break into the chamber.

He briefly shot a video of police officers with guns drawn in a standoff with the insurgents trying to break through the central doors, which had been barricaded with heavy furniture. Kildee then took shelter on the gallery floor. 

A friend in Congress, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, suggested that Kildee reach out to Dr. Jim Gordon, a trauma psychiatrist who is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., and a clinical professor at Georgetown Medical School.

Gordon has counseled patients with PTSD in war zones and after mass school shootings, and he said he quickly recognized the symptoms of post-traumatic stress in the Michigan congressman. 

"All the symptoms that he just described to you, these are all fight or flight (responses) that's been prolonged," said Gordon, who appeared with Kildee for the interview.

"But they didn't go away, and they have not gone away in so many people. And they're still there for people who have not attended to them."

Kildee said his weekly sessions with Gordon have helped, including meditation techniques that he learned from him. They speak almost every Saturday and, most recently, a week ago Monday, according to Kildee's office. 

"This is not something I ever expected to experience — not something that I anticipated," Kildee said. "But I'm just really grateful that we connected, and that I was able to get help when I needed it the most."

Kildee said he hopes that opening up publicly will encourage others who need help to seek it. 

"Most people who experienced trauma don't experience it in real time on every network across the world. They do it privately, quietly, painfully, silently alone," he said. "And so if I can speak to them, that's what I want to do."