Coronavirus: Biden, Harris honor US COVID-19 victims on eve of inauguration

WASHINGTON — In a somber remembrance ceremony, 400 lights around the Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool were lit Tuesday evening to honor the 400,000 U.S. lives lost to COVID-19 in the past year.

Both President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris offered words of comfort during the subdued event.

Biden was introduced by Lori Marie Key, a Michigan nurse on the COVID19-front lines, who sang “Amazing Grace.”

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“To heal, we must remember. It’s hard, sometimes, to remember. But that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation,” Biden said, before observing a moment of silence before the array of lights set up alongside the pool, CBS News reported.

“That’s why we’re here today. Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection and remember all those who we lost,” Biden said, noting, “If there are any angels in heaven, they’re all nurses. We know from our family experience what you do, the courage and the pain you absorb for others. So, thank you. Thank you.”

Gospel singer Yolanda Adams sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” immediately following Biden’s remarks.

The memorial, hosted by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, included an invocation from Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who asked that “our prayer strengthen our awareness of our common humanity and our national unity.”

Harris also delivered brief remarks, stating, " For many months, we 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.”

History professor Micki McElya, who penned “The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery,” characterized the setting as an “iconic vista of heroes and honor and of memorialization.”

“It’s impossible to consider that terrain without also thinking of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963,” McElya told NPR, noting Tuesday’s observance represents the “realization of the work of a lot of people and the realization of the need to come together and honor those who’ve been lost but also to reckon with those losses and what this means for this country.”

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