Shortly before holding a candle lighting ceremony and a moment of silence at the White House honoring the more than 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 thus far, President Biden delivered emotional remarks in which he spoke of his personal experience with grief while empathizing with families who lost loved ones amid the pandemic.
Biden began his remarks by expressing his sorrow over the “truly grim, heartbreaking milestone” of the country hitting 500,000 COVID-19 fatalities.
“That’s more Americans who’ve died in one year in this pandemic than in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam war combined,” Biden said. “That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth.”
Biden implored the public to remember the people who died from COVID-19 and the lives they lived.
“We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. There’s no such thing. There’s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary,” Biden said. “They spanned generations. Born in America, immigrated to America. But just like that so many of them took their final breath alone in America.”
Biden urged the country against accepting “such a cruel fate” and “becoming numb to the sorrow” of the jarring amount of lives lost to COVID.
“As a nation we can’t accept such a cruel fate. While we’re fighting this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow. We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or on the news,” Biden said. “We must do so to honor the dead. But equally important, care for the living, those left behind.”
Biden drew from his personal experiences with grief and the “black hole” that’s left in the aftermath of a loved one’s death as he empathized with “survivor’s remorse.”
“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, looking in their eye as they slip away,” Biden said. “That black hole in your chest, you feel like you’re being sucked into it. The survivor’s remorse, the anger, the questions of faith in your soul.”
After saying that the country cannot and “must not let this go on,” Biden reiterated his remarks on the eve of his inauguration last month at the COVID-19 memorial along the edges of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, when the President said “to heal, we must remember.”
“I know it’s hard. I promise you, I know it’s hard. I remember. But that’s how you feel. You have to remember. And it’s also important to do that as a nation,” Biden said. “For those who’ve lost loved ones this is what I know. They’re never truly gone. They’ll always be part of your heart.”
Promising that the day will come when those who’ve lost a loved one will have a memory of them that will “bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye,” Biden assured those who are grieving amid the COVID-19 pandemic that they will find purpose by honoring the lives of the deceased.
“You’re going to be okay. And for me the way through sorrow and grief is to find purpose,” Biden said. “I don’t know how many who’ve lost someone a while ago are wondering: is he or she proud of me now, is this the thing they want me to do? I know that’s how I feel. And we can find purpose. Purpose worthy of the lives they lived and worthy of the country we love.”
Biden urged Americans to adhere to mitigation strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and therefore save more lives regardless of people’s political affiliation.
“We must end the politics and misinformation that’s divided families, communities and the country. It’s cost too many lives already,” Biden said. “It’s not Democrats or Republicans that are dying from the virus. It’s our fellow Americans.”
Biden concluded his remarks on an optimistic note as he expressed his condolences to those grieving during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again. And as we do, we’ll remember each person we’ve lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind,” Biden said. “We will get through this, I promise you. But my heart aches for you, those of you who are going through it right now. May God bless you all, particularly those who’ve lost someone.”
Watch Biden’s remarks below: