On the eve of his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden will step into the role ceded to him by departing President Donald Trump and lead the nation in mourning the 400,000 people across the United States who have died in the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden will speak at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, introduced by Lori Marie Key — a Michigan nurse on the Covid-19 front lines — who will sing “Amazing Grace.”
Joining Biden for the somber ceremony will be Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their families.
400 lights will be turned on along the perimeter of the pool, each one representing a thousand Americans lost to the coronavirus.
But as Biden speaks, the nation’s capital is an armed camp as thousands of troops and police are on hand to make sure Thursday’s changing on the guard at the White House is peaceful.
The memorial for Covid-19 victims comes on the same day the U.S. eclipsed a staggering milestone — the 400,000th coronavirus fatality — and as Biden prepares to take the reins of the country after a bitter election that was followed by a shocking attempt to overturn the will of the people by Trump’s most ardent supporters.
In New York City, the top of Empire State Building will be lit up in memory of the Covid-19 victims like a flashing red heartbeat, in sync to the sound of Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind.”
In Seattle and Houston, skyscrapers will be lit up with amber lights to remember the dead. And many of the state capitols around the country, including the Florida state capitol in Tallahassee, will be illuminated in the same amber hue.
In New Orleans, white flags for the coronavirus fatalities were unfurled in Lafayette Park ahead of the ceremony.
But in Chicago, the spires in The Loop will be darkened for ten minutes. And Chicagoans are asked to turn off their phones and emerge from their homes at 6:10 p.m. CT with lit candles “to symbolize moving from darkness to light,” the Mayor’s Office said.
Covid memorials were also to be held in both of Biden’s hometowns, Scranton, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware.
And across the land, in communities big and small, church bells will ring to acknowledge the dead.
Out on the National Mall, thousands of small U.S. and territorial flags stood sentry, mute stand-ins for those who would have attended the inauguration were it not for the pandemic — and for the Americans lost to a silent killer.