Remarks by President Biden at a Congressional Tribute for U.S. Capitol Police Officer William Evans

Capitol Rotunda
Washington, D.C.


11:30 A.M. EDT

Media  – THE PRESIDENT:  Madam Speaker; Majority Leader Schumer; Minority Leader McCarthy; my friend, Minority — Minority Leader McConnell; members of Congress; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley; Attorney General Garland; Mayor Bowser; all the Capitol Hill Police and all that are here to pay tribute to this Capitol policeman who fell in the line of duty; Acting Chief Pittman, and the men and women of the Capitol Police Force: I’m sorry — the second time in two months we have such a ceremony.

And, you know, Mom, I didn’t know Billy, but I knew Billy.  I grew up with Billys in Claymont and Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Billy was always the kid that you know if you got in a fight and you’re outnumbered three to one, he’d still jump in, knowing you’d both get beaten.

He was the one who always kept his word.  If he said he’d be there, he’d be there.  He was the one who, just like the folks I grew up with, wasn’t capable of saying no when you needed him.

You know, just like you, Officer Kenny Shaver was injured in the attack with Billy.  And never has there been more strain — and I’ve been here a long time; I’ve been here since 1972 as U.S. senator — ’73 — has so much strain and responsibility been placed on the shoulders — the shoulders of Capitol Police.  And yet, you hear it, you see it, you watch them, and you watch them do their duty with pure courage and not complain.

You know, Sergeant Kyle King, I’m sorry you had to make the call — that telephone call that every family dreads when they have a son or daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister in uniform.  Because every morning — every morning they pin that badge on, go to work, they expect to come home.  In the back of your minds, “We’ll never get that call.”

You knew Billy since grade school.  I think it was the fourth grade.  I got to deal with all the guys that I grew up and knew in fourth grade.  When one passes away, the other one has to give up because he has too much information about you, too much to leave behind.  But, you know, I’m sure all those memories from North Adams and Clarksburg never changed who Billy was.

He was defined by his dignity, his decency, his loyalty, and his courage.   And, Mom, that’s because of you and his Dad.  That’s how it happened — not by accident.

Mrs. Evans, you have — I have some idea of what you’re feeling like.  I buried two of my children.  And people have come up to you and are going to come up to you for some time and say, “I know how you feel.”  They’re going to say that to sis.  They’re going to say that to the kids.  They’re going to say that to his former wife.  And after a while — you know everybody means well — you feel like saying, “You have no idea.”

But the truth is that a time is going to come, I promise you — not believable now — when a memory, a fragrance, a scene, a circumstance, the way his son tilts his head the way he did when he was that age — it’s going to bring back the memory.  And for the longest time, it’s going to feel like, at that moment, that memory — it’s going to feel like you got the phone call just that moment ago.  And there are going to be people celebrating Billy’s life.  And as much as you appreciate it — all of you — it also is hard; you relive everything again.

You know, I — I got a phone call when I first got here and lost my family — part of my family — from a person I never knew, never met: the former governor of New Jersey, who was literally 40 — 45 years my senior.  And he told me he knew how I felt.  And I didn’t say anything.

He said, “I know what you’re thinking.”  He said, “But I did know.”  He said, “I used to come home — I was the Attorney General of New Jersey before I was Governor.  And I’d come home for lunch because I lived just across the green from my office.  And one day, a woman who helped out at our home came running across the green saying, ‘She’s gone.  She’s gone.’”

His wife had had an aneurysm.  And he said, “You know what I did?”  He said, “I kept — I kept a — I got graph paper, and four months out, I would put the month on it and then a horizontal line.  I’d put the date and the month.  In the vertical line, I put the numbers 1 to 10.  Ten would be the happiest day of my life, and one would be like the moment I got the phone call.”

And he said, “And every night before I’d go to bed, I’d graph it.  I’d put on a dot on that day where I was.”  And he said, “Don’t look at it for three or four months.  He said, “And you’ll look at it and you’ll see.”  He’d put it on a graph — graph.  “The downs are just as far down, but they get further and further and further apart.”

That’s how you’re all going to know that you’re going to make it — by holding each other together, and most importantly, by holding Logan and Abigail as tightly as you can.  Because as long as you have them, you’ve got Billy.  As long as you have them.

You know, my prayer for all of you is that a day will come when you have that memory, and I’ve said, “Just smile before you bring a tear to your eyes.”  It’s — I promise you it’s going to come.  It just takes a while.  It takes a while.

But when it comes, you’ll know, because he’s still with you.  He’s still in your heart.

Losing a son, daughter, brother, sister, mom, dad — it’s like losing a piece of your soul.  But it’s buried deep, but it comes back.

There’s a great quote by R.G. Ingersoll.  It was read when my son, who was the chief law enforcement officer in the state of Delaware — the attorney general — came back from Iraq after a year and he — and he died.  And they read this poem from R.G. Ingersoll, who said, “When will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns compromise with death, this is heroism.”

Your son, your husband, your brother, your dad was a hero.  And he’s part of you.  It’s in your blood.

My prayer for you is that moment when a smile comes before the tear, quicker than longer.  Thank you.

11:40 A.M. EDT

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