A stillness gripped the nation’s capital on Wednesday, with armed soldiers encircling the stage where Joseph R. Biden Jr. was set to take the oath of office at noon to become the 46th president of the United States.
President Trump, who largely disappeared from public view after an insurrectionist mob stormed the Capitol, urged on by his baseless claims that the election was stolen, left the White House early Wednesday and after a short farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland was scheduled to fly to Florida.
Even before Mr. Biden was sworn in, he sought to set a new tone for a nation torn by political strife in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century.
On Tuesday night, for the first time since the coronavirus started its deadly march across the country a year ago, a vigil was held to commemorate the more than 400,000 Americans who have died.
“To heal we must remember,” Mr. Biden said, standing in front of the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial. “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.”
There were no crowds, just 400 lights flickering in memory of the lives lost.
There was none of the usual buzz of inaugural events as crowds from around the country descend on the National Mall to hear from their new president. In the absence of the usual throngs were security personnel and razor wire.
People were told to stay away.
Instead, a field of 200,000 illuminated flags on the Mall represented the thousands of Americans who could not attend the ceremony, with Washington locked down because of the coronavirus pandemic and domestic security threats after the deadly riot at the Capitol two weeks ago. In a prerecorded farewell address released on Tuesday, Mr. Trump took responsibility for neither.
More than 25,000 National Guard members were deployed to assist in protecting the Capitol and areas in downtown Washington. Police officers and military vehicles guarded closed-off streets and the National Mall and other landmarks, which were closed to the public.
A small, socially distanced audience will watch Lady Gaga sing the national anthem at the swearing-in and performances by Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks. After Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn in, Mr. Biden will deliver his Inaugural Address.