• Fri. Aug 5th, 2022

Support group helps staff and police traumatized by 6 January

ByJulie J. Helfer

Jul 9, 2022

WASHINGTON — As the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection resumes public hearings next week, some who worked that day on Capitol Hill say the proceedings bring back painful memories.


What do you want to know

  • Many people affected by the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol say recent hearings into what happened that day have brought back painful memories.
  • Sharon Nichols, Capitol Hill staffer, and United States Capitol Police Sgt. Harry Dunn, started a support group to help those affected by the riots
  • They say as the Jan. 6 House Select Committee reveals new evidence in public hearings, the support group has grown

Some sought out a new support group formed by Hill staffers and a United States Capitol Police officer to help them deal with the aftermath of that day and begin to heal.

Sharon Nichols, director of communications at the House of Representatives, said she still had flashbacks to Jan. 6, when she spent hours locked in her office as a mob stormed the Capitol.

“I’m sitting at the same desk now that I was sitting that day, watching him play on TV and running to the windows and trying to figure out if I should turn off the lights,” Nichols said in a post. interview with Spectrum News. “Reminds me of those memories.”

She spoke candidly about her experiences that day and found an outlet for her trauma on social media. His posts caught the attention of the United States Capitol Police Sgt. Harry Dunn, a 13-year veteran of the force, who defended the Capitol that day.

“I wrote back to him and we became friends, it was just instant,” Dunn said.

Together they formed a support group to help others with similar experiences navigate their feelings.

“So much attention was given to the police starting on January 6, but when you think about it, so many other people were affected by January 6,” Dunn said.

The group has met three times so far and is open to anyone working in the Capitol complex. Although some Republican lawmakers downplayed the Jan. 6 events, Nichols said staffers who work for members on both sides attended.

“We were careful not to pressure anyone into giving out identifying information about themselves,” she said.

As the Jan. 6 House Select Committee reveals new evidence in public hearings, the support group has grown.

“We bring tissues and snacks,” Nichols said. “People who work here, see themselves in these videos, have to relive that – it’s moving.”

“Some of the people in the band, we’re texting each other during the hearing, ‘Hey, how are you?'” Dunn said.

United States Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, an army veteran, said he found comfort in attending the support group.

“It’s been helpful to know that we’re not going through this alone,” he said in an interview with Spectrum News. “I know that I have benefited from it apart from the other treatments I have received.”

Gonell suffered serious foot and shoulder injuries after being attacked during the Capitol Siege. He just finished physical therapy, but doesn’t think he’ll be able to serve in uniform again.

“That’s not how I want to retire or leave the department – I’m still young, as young as I feel,” he said. “But, you know, mentally and physically my body is not there. I’ve been through a lot.”

For many, the events of January 6 still echo through the halls of the Capitol complex – Gonell said he would not walk alone near the lower entrance to the Capitol’s West Terrace, where he was attacked that day .

“I’m starting to hear all the screams and everything I’ve been through,” he said.

“Years later, and for years to come, we will live with the impact,” Nichols said.

Others say the real healing will begin once the truth about what happened on January 6 is fully revealed.

“Look at the revelations that come out with some of these hearings, it’s not closure,” Dunn said. “There will be no closure on my part until those responsible are held to account.”