WASHINGTON — With 500 candles glowing with night falling on Washington, President Joe Biden honored the 500,000 Americans who have died from coronavirus with remarks followed by a moment of silence at the White House Monday night.
Speaking at the Cross Hall of the White House, Biden gave brief remarks, displaying his own sadness and expressing the grief so many Americans have felt over the pass year as the coronavirus raged through the country.
“Today we mark a truly heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead,” Biden said. “That’s more Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth.”
The memorial comes on the day America crossed the deadly milestone of 500,000 American deaths, according to John Hopkins University. The grim milestone comes a year after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.
Biden spoke from experience when it came to feeling the heartache and grief of losing a loved one.
“For the loved ones left behind: I know all too well. I know what it’s like to not be there when it happens. I know what it’s like when you are there holding their hands, there’s a look in their eye and they slip away,” he said.
“I know that when you stare at that empty chair around the kitchen table it brings it all back no matter how long ago it happened, as if it just happened that moment,” he added.
The President noted he received a letter from a woman whose father died from COVID-19 last Easter. She told him she and her family had not been able to mourn his death due to the pandemic.
Biden also expressed hope and told Americans to remain optimistic about the future, despite how things have looked over the past year.
“This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again,” he said. “And as we do, we’ll remember each person we’ve lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind. We will get through this I promise you.”
Following his remarks, Biden participated in a moment of silence with the 500 lighted candles outside the White House, joined by first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
Biden also issued a presidential proclamation in remembrance of the deaths, ordering the flag of the United States to be flown at half-staff for the next five days at all federal buildings and military posts in the United States and overseas.