As the nation marked 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Tuesday morning, the president-elect and vice president-elect honored the memory of those we have lost in a somber ceremony ahead of their inauguration on Wednesday.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris both spoke at the Lincoln Memorial before the Presidential Inaugural Committee lit 400 lights surrounding the reflecting pool.
“We gather tonight a nation in mourning to pay tribute to the lives we have lost. A grandmother or grandfather who was our whole world. A parent, partner, sibling or friend who we still cannot accept is no longer here,” Harris said in her remarks. “For many months we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.”
“Though we may be physically separated, we the American people are united in spirit. And my abiding hope, my abiding prayer, is that we emerge from this ordeal with a new wisdom: to cherish simple moments. To imagine new possibilities. And to open our hearts just a little bit more to one another.”
Biden spoke last and kept his remarks short. He first thanked the nurse who sang “Amazing Grace,” before adding the country has to remember and heal together.
“To heal, we must remember that it’s hard sometimes to remember. But that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today,” he said. “Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection, remembering all whom we’ve lost.”
The United States confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Jan. 21, 2020, almost a year ago to the day. In the year since, more than 400,000 Americans have died. For context, that is nearly equal to the number of American military casualties in World War II, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Worldwide, more than 2 million people have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. Though the U.S. makes up less than 5% of the world’s population, the nation’s death toll is the world’s highest.
The inaugural committee also encouraged Americans around the country to participate in Tuesday’s ceremony by lighting a candle in their windows or to light up city buildings at 5:30 p.m. local time in a “light amber color.” People were also encouraged to ring a bell at 5:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday night during the national ceremony.