Biden commemorates 500,000 U.S. lives lost to COVID-19



Hours after the U.S. crossed the threshold of 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, President Biden commemorated the lives lost over the past year on Monday night. No other country has lost more lives to the yearlong pandemic than the U.S.

“Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone,” he said in a brief speech at the White House. “500,071 dead. That’s more Americans who died in one year in this pandemic than in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined.”

Remembrance, Mr. Biden said, is an important part of the healing process, both for individuals and for the nation. Shortly before the event, the president ordered the flags at the White House lowered to half staff. Candles graced the steps from the White House residence to the South Lawn, as the president, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff looked out over the South Lawn in a moment of silence. 

Biden commemorates lives lost to COVID-19


“That’s how you heal — you have to remember,” Mr. Biden said. “And it’s also important to do that as a nation. Those who have lost loved ones, here’s what I know: They’re never truly gone. They’ll always be part of your heart.”

The president, who lost his first wife and daughter in a car crash decades ago, and whose son Beau died after a battle with cancer in 2015, empathized with those who have lost loved ones over the last year.

“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, looking in to their eyes as they slip away,” Mr. Biden said. “…That movie theater where you met. The morning coffee you shared together.”

President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, bow their heads during a White House ceremony to honor the 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 on Monday, February 22, 2021.

Evan Vucci / AP

The president called on the country to press forward in taking precautions to prevent more deaths. It’s not about politics, he said — it’s about neighbors, friends, daughters and sons, husbands and wives. 

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