President Biden on Monday held a moment of silence for the 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 after the US passed what he called the “truly grim, heartbreaking milestone.”
His address was largely aimed at the families that have suffered loss in his 6 p.m. televised speech from the White House. Afterward he hosted a candlelit outdoor commemoration with first lady Jill, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
“500,071 dead. 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,” he said.
“But as we acknowledge the scale of this mass death in America, we remember each person and the life they lived. The people we knew, the people we feel like we knew.”
Biden, 78, recounted his personal experiences with grief in the 11-minute speech.
“While we’ve been fighting this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow and have to resist viewing each life as a statistic, or a blur, or on the news,” he said.
“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 is like when you are there holding their hands, looking in their eye and they slip away.”
Biden said to the family members of COVID-19 victims that “the day will come when the memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye. It will come, I promise you. My prayer for you, though, is that they will come sooner rather than later. And that’s when you know you’re going to be okay.”
Biden said that “for me, the way through sorrow and grief is to find purpose.”
“This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again. And as we do, we remember each person we’ve lost,” he said.