President Joe Biden faced the once-unimaginable loss of half a million Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday with sunset remarks and a national moment of silence as he sought to strike a balance between grief and hope.
Directly and publicly acknowledging the bleak, tragic landmark, Biden walked to a lectern in the White House Cross Hall, unhooked his face mask and gave more than 500,000 Americans an emotion-filled eulogy he said he wished he understood.
We also hear individuals referred to as average Americans. Such a thing is not there,’ he said Monday evening. “With them, there is nothing common. The people we lost have been exceptional.
“Just like that,” he said, “so many have taken their last breath on their own.”
Biden, a president whose own life was marked by family tragedy, spoke in extremely personal terms, referring to his own losses as he sought to console the vast number of Americans whose lives were affected by the pandemic forever.
“All too well, I know. When it happens, I know what it’s like not to be there,’ said Biden, who has addressed sadness more effectively for a long time than maybe any other American public figure. I know what it is like to hold their hands while you are there, when they look into your eyes and slip away. You feel like you’re being pulled into the dark hole in your chest.’
With a message of hope, the president, who lost his first wife and baby daughter in a car accident and later an adult son to brain cancer, leavened the sorrow.
“Again, this nation will smile. This nation will once again know about sunny days. This country will once again know joy. And we’ll remember every person we’ve lost, the lives they’ve led, the loved ones they’ve left behind, just as we do.
He said, “We must resist becoming numb to grief.” We have to resist seeing every life on the news as a number or a blur, or. To remember the dead, we must do so. Yet, just as importantly, caring for the living.
For five days, the president ordered flags on federal property reduced to half workers and then led the moment of national mourning for those lost to a virus that sometimes keeps individuals from gathering to remember their loved ones. Against conflicting crosscurrents, Monday’s bleak milestone of 500,000 deaths was playing out: a promising decline in coronavirus cases and fears about the spread of more infectious strains.
At least the first year of his administration, Biden’s management of the pandemic will certainly determine, and his reaction has shown the inherent difficulty between preparing the nation for dark weeks ahead while still providing hope about bringing out vaccinations that could potentially put this American tragedy to a close.
The President, along with First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and her partner, Doug Emhoff, were standing outside the White House at sundown for a moment of silence. The doorway they were passing through was covered with black bunting. As the Marine Band performed a mournful rendition of “Amazing Grace,” five hundred brightly lit candles, each representing 1,000 people missing, illuminated the stairways on either side of them.
The landmark comes just over a year after the first reported U.S. coronavirus fatality. Since then, the pandemic has spread through the globe and the U.S., underlining the health care infrastructure of the country, rattling the economy and rewriting the laws of daily society.
Biden has not shied away from giving remembrances of the lives lost to the virus in one of his many symbolic breaks with his predecessor. On the eve of his inauguration, his first stop after arriving in Washington was to attend a twilight ceremony to mourn the dead at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
That sombre moment on the eve of Biden’s inauguration was a measure of the enormity of loss for the country, traditionally a celebration time when America marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transition of power.
When Biden took the oath of office, the COVID-19 death figure in the United States had only reached 400,000. In the last month, an additional 100,000 have died.
Invariably, former President Donald Trump looked to play down the number, initially suggesting that the epidemic would go away on its own and then locking in a projection that America would suffer significantly less than 100,000 fatalities. Trump changed gears again after the number eclipsed the threshold and said the loss scale was actually a success storey because it could have been much worse.
Trump oversaw no moment of national remembrance, no memorial service, outside of perfunctory tweets marking the milestones of 100,000 and 200,000 deaths. He made no mention of the misery at the Republican National Convention, leaving it to First Lady Melania Trump.
And he erroneously predicted at campaign rallies around the country that the nation was “rounding the corner” on the virus while disregarding protective measures such as masks and pressing governors to loosen limits on public health advice. “It was revealed in audio recordings released last fall that Trump told journalist Bob Woodward in March that “I really wanted to play it down. I still want to play it, because I don’t want to make you panic.
Biden, by comparison, as he comforts those who grieve, has long relied on his own personal tragedy. He has vowed to balance the magnitude of the epidemic with the American public and has repeatedly cautioned that the nation was going through a “very dark winter,” one now threatened by the advent of more infectious variants of viruses.
Biden has also deliberately set low expectations, particularly on vaccinations and when the nation will return to normal, knowing that by overcoming them, he might land a political win. In his first 100 days, he is on track to far surpass his initial pledge to offer 100 million vaccines, with some experts in public health now encouraging him to set a far more ambitious target. By the end of July, the administration says it plans to have a vaccine available for every American.
For a potential return to normalcy, Biden’s reference to next Christmas raised eyebrows around a pandemic-weary nation and appeared less positive than predictions made in his own administration by others, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who proposed a summer comeback.