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On a day when U.S. deaths from COVID-19 topped 400,000, President-elect Joe Biden led a memorial service on the National Mall to remember the victims of the pandemic.
“To heal, we must remember. It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal,” Biden said Tuesday at a somber event in front of the reflecting pool leading to the Washington Monument. “It’s important that we do that as a nation. That’s why we are here today.”
The brief ceremony, which included an a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace” by Lori Marie Key, a nurse from Michigan, stood in contrast to President Trump’s public silence about the pandemic in recent weeks, except to congratulate himself on speeding the development of a vaccine. With just hours remaining until he comes the 46th president of the United States, Biden kept the focus on those who had died of COVID-19.
“Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection and remember who that we lost,” Biden said.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also spoke briefly at the memorial service.
“Tonight we grieve and begin healing together.” Harris said.
Earlier in the day, Trump released a 20-minute video farewell, cataloguing what he said were the accomplishments of his administration.
“When our nation was hit with the terrible pandemic, we produced not one but two vaccines with record-breaking speed and more will quickly follow. They said it couldn’t be done but we did it. They called it a medical miracle and that’s what they’re calling it right now, a medical miracle. Another administration would have taken three, four, five, maybe even up to 10 years to develop a vaccine. We did it in nine months,” Trump said. “We grieve for every life lost and we pledge in their memory to wipe out this horrible pandemic once and for all.”
Throughout the presidential campaign, Biden warned of a “dark winter” for the country as vaccines began to be distributed nationwide. Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain also warned last week that the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 will likely top 500,000 in the coming weeks.
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