Even before the insurrection at the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021 was set to be different. Rep. Dan Kildee entered the day set to defend Michigan’s Electoral College votes from a Republican challenge. The GOP goal was to deny Joe Biden the required votes needed for the presidency and keep Donald Trump in the nation’s highest office.
Kildee, the Flint Democrat, says when he arrived at work early to prepare, something seemed off. He noticed a larger crowd than expected.
“We had no way out. So we ended up trapped.” –Rep. Dan Kildee
“But it wasn’t until we were in the House chambers and began to get reports that the rally had begun to disperse,” he says. “And that they’re all coming toward the Capitol. That was the first signal that something wasn’t right.”
Kildee says he realized the events took a dangerous turn after a series of text messages saying people were trying to get into the Capitol. Then a senior leader of the Capitol Police announced on the House floor that the security perimeter and Capitol had been breached. “Unfortunately, for those of us who were in the gallery, which is the sort of observation seating area above the floor of the House, we had no way out. So we ended up trapped.”
The legislators found themselves in a difficult situation.
“It was really scary. We could hear the mob on the other side of the doors. We can tell that it was a really big crowd. We didn’t know how big but we knew it was a lot of people. And we only had a handful of Capitol Police officers with us and they had their handguns and that was really all they had to protect us,” he says.
He recorded on his cellphone when one of the Capitol officers fired on the attackers as they broke into the Speaker’s Lobby, resulting in the death of Ashli Babbitt.
“But that moment also opened up space for us to escape in the Capitol Police helped us get out as a result of that very brief moment,” he says.
Five people died in the Jan. 6 insurrection and then several other Capitol police officers took their own life, suffering from the mental anguish of that day. Kildee says he has been dealing with post-traumatic stress.
“I had a reaction that I didn’t completely understand. The physical and emotional reaction to those events in the immediate days that followed, partly triggered by watching the videos, and coming to a much clearer understanding of how much danger I was in,” he says.
“Watching the brutal violence that the attackers displayed against the police officers, it occurred to me if they had broken through that line, and somehow gotten to us — if they’re willing to attack and attempt to kill police officers — what would they have done if they got to the subject of their venom, members of Congress? That was the cause a lot of of anguish for me and for a lot of my, my colleagues who were trapped, so I went through a tough period and got some help. It’s the best decision that I made.”