One of the most compelling portions of the inaugural festivities was, without a doubt, on January 19. On the eve of the inauguration, the President and Vice President-elect and their spouses gathered to remember the more than 400,000 Americans who’ve lost their lives to Covid-19.
The simple, but impactful, ceremony took place at the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where the perimeter had been adorned with 400 pillars of light, to remember those lost to the pandemic. Included in the proceedings were prayer and song, led by Wilton Cardinal Gregory of Washington, D.C. A frontline worker sang an acapella version of “Amazing Grace” and Christian singer Yolanda Adams offered her rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah.”
The event of remembrance concluded with bells ringing across America—in historic locations, churches, and private homes, to name a few. And, last night, many of America’s most important buildings, including structures like the Empire State Building, were bathed in amber lights, as a commemoration to those lost. (The New Jersey state capitol is pictured above.)
Why did this event, simple and straightforward, resonate so much with Americans? Because it is the first time that we have gathered, as a nation, to recognize and grieve the dead. In an administration that seemed to obfuscate and refute the tragedy at every turn, the President-elect paused to bear witness to all our suffering—the dead, their loved ones, and our entire country. Over the last four years, we have been deprived of leadership which consoles us in our times of public sorrow. May that change begin with this potent ritual for the living and the dead.