WASHINGTON (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic and the risk of civil unrest made the inauguration of the 46th president one of the most unusual in American history.
Some 200,000 American, state and territorial flags were planted on the National Mall to represent people who could not attend because of COVID-19, which has killed 400,000 people in the United States. In the past, the Capitol was packed with thousands trying to witness history.
This year, VIPs were seated several feet apart, and they wore facial masks to prevent the spread of the virus. In 1961, the world could see every expression on President John F. Kennedy’s face. Biden’s face was covered with a mask except for when he spoke.
The Capitol, the epicenter of democracy that was invaded by violent loyalists of former President Donald Trump just two weeks ago, was surrounded with multiple rings of heavy steel fencing, topped with razor wire. Streets and bridges were closed. Intersections were blocked with dump trucks.
Instead of throngs of waving Americans lining the streets, an estimated 25,000 armed National Guard members patrolled the eerily quiet city. The inaugural parade was abbreviated, most of it held virtually.
When Biden walked down Pennsylvania Avenue and into the White House, his mask hid his emotion, a stark comparison to the toothy smile former Jimmy Carter displayed when he arrived as president in 1977.