When Abigail Evans saw her mom was crying, she draped her arm around her back and scooted closer to her as the two held hands, simultaneously clutching a Capitol Dome toy.
Abigail, 7, and her brother Logan Evans, 9, watched Tuesday as congressional leaders and President Joe Biden lauded their late father’s heroism, at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda where he lay in honor. Capitol Police Officer William “Billy” Evans, 41, died April 2 after Noah Green slammed a car into him and Officer Kenny Shaver.
As Abigail listened to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s remarks, she dropped the Capitol Dome toy onto the ground. Biden, who was sitting close by Evans’ family, got up from his seat, walked a few paces and bent down to grab the toy, and handed it back to her.
“Logan and Abigail, no words are adequate. We can only imagine your sadness, but we hope it’s a comfort to you that so many now know about your dad and know that he is a hero. That his name will always be on our lips and his memory in our hearts,” Pelosi said, adding, “And that the president of the United States is picking up one of your distractions.”
Biden spoke directly to the family, making eye contact with Janice Evans, Billy’s mother, the two children and their mother, Shannon Terranova. The president said Billy was just like people he grew up with, characterizing him as tough and loyal.
“He was the one who, just like folks I grew up with, wasn’t capable of saying no when you needed him,” Biden said.
Biden, who has been a presence on Capitol Hill since being elected to the Senate in 1972, said there has never been more strain and responsibility on the Capitol Police.
It has been a year of tremendous loss and trauma for the force. Officer Brian Sicknick died as a result of injuries he sustained defending the Capitol from pro-Trump insurrectionists on Jan. 6. Days later, Officer Howard Liebengood died by suicide. Eighty officers were seriously injured in the riot and many more are living through severe trauma that day caused.
Shaver, the officer who was injured by the same car that killed Evans, was at the memorial in a suit and had a walking boot on his left leg. He rose to pay respects to Evans, alongside acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman.
Biden, who has buried two of his children, told the family that memories of Billy will make them feel as if they just got the phone call informing them of his death. He said it will get better, that the times of grief will become more spaced out as time goes on and implored them to hold their family tightly.
“As long as you have them (Logan and Abigail), you’ve got Billy,” the president said as Logan was wearing his father’s police officer hat.
Biden said he prays that one day the family will have a memory of Billy and smile before crying, something the president said takes time but will surely come.
“He’s still with you,” Biden said. “He’s still in your heart.”
In the department’s almost 200-year history, six officers have died in the line of duty, including Evans and Sicknick. The other four are Sgt. Christopher S. Eney, Officer Jacob J. Chestnut, Det. John M. Gibson and Sgt. Clinton J. Holtz. Eney was accidentally shot during a training exercise in 1984, and Holtz died after a cardiac event while on duty in 2014. Chestnut and Gibson were murdered by a gunman attempting to force his way into the Capitol in 1998.
Evans is the sixth person and the fourth Capitol Police officer to have lain in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, a designation for those who are not government or military officials, such as the late civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Sicknick was honored in the same manner as Evans in early February. The late Rev. Billy Graham, Chestnut and Gibson round out the six.
Officer Clarence, a Saint Bernard from the Greenfield Police Department in Massachusetts, was present to work as a comfort dog during the memorial.
Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.