Raskin and the others on the House floor evacuated the building and made their way to a secure location, but spectators had to seek shelter inside the Capitol. Raskin’s chief of staff, Julie Tagen, led Tabitha and Hank to an office, where they hid beneath a table while insurrectionists overtook the building. A group of rioters repeatedly attempted to enter the room. Tagen stood guard next to the blockaded entrance, clutching a fire iron. “I asked her to protect them with her life, and she did,” Raskin told me.
Read: Scenes from an American insurrection
I reached out to Raskin yesterday because he had been through more in one week than most people experience in a lifetime: He lost his son to suicide, he and his daughter survived a rampage, and, in the hours before we talked, he began working with two colleagues to prepare articles of impeachment against the president of the United States. “The president is a lethal danger to the American republic and the American people,” Raskin told me. “There has been nothing like this since the Civil War.”
He had gone to bed at about 5 a.m. Thursday morning and was running on fumes—members of Congress “were living off of Skittles and Cheez-Its.” We spoke first in the early evening and then again late last night. There was unmistakable exhaustion in his voice, but he was both lucid and candid. Over the previous seven nights, Raskin and his wife, Sarah, had stayed up late talking about their son. I asked if speaking about the loss makes it easier. He paused.
“My wife captured it perfectly: She said that there is so much pain and so much love, and it’s all mixed together,” he said. “But every day we’re able to disentangle them more, so that we can experience the love more purely and the pain more purely, and it doesn’t hurt to love him.”
Raskin spoke fondly of Tommy for long, uninterrupted stretches of time. Occasionally I could hear the voices of his family members in the background. “When you lose a child under these circumstances, you’re plagued with thousands of questions about things you may have done differently, missed clues, alternative ways you may have dealt with this or that situation,” he said. “And it’s just cognitive quicksand. The questions never end. And people tell us it’s normal, it’s natural—but ultimately it’s unresolvable and inscrutable and futile.”
Two days before the attack at the Capitol, Raskin released a 1,700-word tribute to his son. It was more than a standard obituary; it was an intimate, soulful look at Tommy’s kaleidoscopic life: soccer player, poet, playwright, pianist, anti-war activist, animal lover, brother, cousin, son, and, in recent years, person with depression. At the time of his death, Tommy was attending Harvard Law School, as his father had in the 1980s. Due to the pandemic, he was temporarily living in the basement apartment at his parents’ house.