“Be with us, for we have lost a son, a father, a friend and a partner.”
With this prayer from the House chaplain, memories of William “Billy” Evans’ life began to echo off the marbled walls of the Capitol he died defending. But while echoes eventually fall silent, his legacy will forever resonate in the sacred halls of democracy for which he served and sacrificed.
Mr. Evans was a Capitol Police officer. For nearly two decades, his job was to put his body in harm’s way outside the U.S. Capitol to protect what was inside. But on Tuesday, Mr. Evans’ body was inside the Capitol, lying in the rotunda where Abraham Lincoln and John Lewis had lain before. Mr. Evans was not a president or a senator or a powerful politico, but he was arguably something greater — a patriot of the highest order who, amid chaotic violence, paid the ultimate price in defense of others.
In life, Mr. Evans was a devoted dad and a faithful friend; a fountain of corny jokes and someone who was so proud to serve in the USCP’s first responder unit that he carried his badge with him everywhere, even when off the clock. In death, he took on a debt that the nation cannot possibly repay, though we must try, as our highest representatives did Tuesday in paying respects to Mr. Evans and his family.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asked everyone to keep alive Mr. Evans’ memory, especially the simple phrase he so often uttered: “How can I help?”
“On an unseasonably cold day in early April, that innate impulse to ask, ‘How can I help,’ had Billy running toward danger,” Sen. Schumer said. “A reflex, as natural and as automatic as breath, to put the safety and happiness of others before his own.”
President Joe Biden, calling upon his own experiences with sudden and tragic loss, directly addressed Mr. Evans’ family: “Your son, your husband, your brother, your dad was a hero. It’s in your blood.”
While we cannot possibly understand the Evans family’s pain, we, too, mourn a member of our extended Berkshire family. And though our community has lost a native son, the heart of our republic will forever bear the mark of this selfless protector.
Billy Evans’ life began in North Adams, Mass. and it ended in the nation’s capital. May we remember everything in between, and that he gave it all so that others would be safe.