Washington, D.C. – Today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke at the Lying in Honor Congressional Tribute to U.S. Capitol Police Officer William “Billy” Evans. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks as delivered:
To the family, my colleagues, members of our great Capitol Police Force. Capitol Police officers are approached by hundreds of lost tourists a day. If you were one of the lucky ones, you'd bump into officer Billy Evans. “Excuse me,” they'd say. “Can I ask a question?” Billy would flash his wide smile, eyes full of mirth and say, “but you already did.”
To know Billy Evans was to know—to borrow from Shakespeare—a fellow of infinite jest.
His childhood friends will tell you that Billy capitalized, literally, on every opportunity for a joke. His college crew, as he called them, would add that he could be a prankster, his bowling crew and his band crew would say just the same. Billy was a man of many crews. The guy who'd asked to sit shotgun on a long road trip. The one you'd want to be stationed with on a lazy summer day at the North barricade. The first pick for an afternoon of Legos and lightsaber duels.
Of course, not all of Billy’s jokes were winners. He had his share of bad dad jokes. Some were just random. If a fellow officer asked Billy what he was up to, he'd be liable to reply, “just thinking about my ideal weight if I was eight feet tall.” A fellow of infinite jest who wrung joy and laughter out of life’s smallest moments.
Returning to that lost tourist for a moment, of course, Officer Evans wouldn't leave the poor guy hanging. “Now let me ask you a question,” he’d say. “How can I help?” Summing up, his life's mission in those four simple words. How can I help?
How can I help my country? Join the Capitol Police Force. How can I help my colleagues? Volunteer to join the First Responders Unit. And on an unseasonably cold day in early April, that innate impulse to ask “how can I help?” had Billy running towards danger. A reflex, as natural and as automatic as breath, to put the safety and happiness of others before his own.
We're all shocked by the senselessness of this loss. To his sister Julie, his mother, Janice, who I was able to speak with last week, to Shannon: my heart breaks for you. It does.
To Billy's beloved children, Logan, Abigail: I want you to know that we are forever indebted to your dad. We will remember his sacrifice, and your sacrifice, forever.
And to Billy’s friends on the Capitol Police Force. These past few months have been devastating. Just as the scars of January 6 had begun to heal, another wound had opened. I say to you now, our dear Capitol Police Force who protect us: There is no shame in grief and sorrow and shock. We grieve with you. We feel that shock and sorrow with you. And we will heal together with you.
To everyone else gathered here, I have two things to ask of you. First, if you see an officer today, be like Billy and ask yourself, how can I help? Be like Billy and be a comfort to all who are lost, to all who continue to recover from wounds seen and unseen, in the wake of these tragedies.
And second, second, I'd ask all of you to keep his memory alive. In the Jewish faith we say, may their memory be a blessing. A blessing is something we remember and share and speak aloud.
Those of you who remember Billy need to speak his name. Tell his stories, tell his jokes, even the bad ones, especially the bad ones, to keep the blessing of his memory alive. To make sure his young children grow up knowing their dad and remembering him as the hero and loving father he was.
Today, we are hollow with loss. But one day, Billy's memory will feel like a blessing. If, through all of life's tragedies, Billy could search every moment for that spark of joy, so can we.
Rest in peace, William. May your memory be a blessing.