President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived in Washington Tuesday, leading a national mourning for Americans killed in the coronavirus pandemic as the death toll topped 400,000 in the darkness.
On the eve of his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, Mr. Biden flew from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, to the capital and went to the Lincoln Memorial, where he presided over a brief ceremony in which he paid tribute to those who did so died of Covid-19 last year.
“In order to heal, we have to remember,” said Mr Biden, who stood in front of the Reflecting Pool, which was surrounded by 400 lights to commemorate the 400,000 victims of the virus. “Sometimes it’s hard to remember. But that’s how we heal. It is important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today. Between sunset and dusk, let’s shine the lights in the dark along the sacred reflection pool, remembering all we have lost. “
As he spoke, the bells in Washington National Cathedral began to ring, and the Empire State Building in New York and the Space Needle in Seattle were lit. Cities from Miami to San Diego also planned to light buildings for the occasion, while Mr Biden’s inaugural committee encouraged Americans to light candles in their windows to show national solidarity. Events were also planned for Mr. Biden’s hometowns of Wilmington and Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Mr Biden takes on the role of the mourner in the boss, projecting command over the issue that angered the Trump administration over the past year. He has made pandemic control a central concern of his government and has been extremely critical of his predecessor’s handling of the worst public health crisis in more than 100 years.
When President Trump on Monday night ordered an end to the ban on travelers from Europe and Brazil aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus in the United States, Mr Biden’s advisors said he would lift the move when he took office Wednesday before it should come into effect.
Mr. Trump’s order was issued at a time of heightened concern about the coronavirus, and what Mr. Biden has warned will be a “dark winter”. The country saw a surge after the holidays that overwhelmed some hospitals and resulted in a record number of deaths. The national vaccination rollout was slow and chaotic. And one more contagious variant of the virus is spreading while others are discovered.
Tuesday’s grim memory began over two days of personal and virtual events in Washington as Mr Biden took the oath of office on Wednesday at a time of economic struggle and cultural upheaval following President Trump’s four tumultuous years in the White House.
Gloomy in his demeanor and brief in his remarks, Mr. Biden was accompanied by his wife, Jill Biden, as well as the elected Vice President Kamala D. Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, delivered the invocation while two acclaimed gospel singers, Yolanda Adams and Lori Marie Key, performed.