PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Biden family is no stranger to presidential inaugurations. But the scene will be unlike any they, or any American alive today, has seen in Washington next week.
The clan will first gather together Jan. 19 for an inauguration event at the Lincoln Memorial, according to Palm Beach County resident Frank Biden, the president-elect's younger brother. The vigil at the landmark, bookend monument is a remembrance for close to 400,000 Americans lost to COVID-19.
Other than the Bidens, few others will be able to participate in the inaugural ceremonies in person. The National Mall itself will be fenced off and guarded by tens of thousands of troops in the wake of a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Still, Frank Biden said the 46th president is determined to let the nation know he will lead America back to health and prosperity.
"This inauguration is about the American people," said Biden, who works for a law firm. "It's about our declaration that the democratic process works. It's alive and well. It's been tested, tempered. We'll come out the other side, honest to God, we'll come out stronger on the other side than at any time in our history."
But the path to the promised "other side" has been a rocky one.
President-elect Joe Biden's predecessor, President Donald Trump, leaves office as an impeached commander-in-chief. He has presided over the most tumultuous and violent transition since the months leading up to the start of the Civil War almost 155 years ago.
The baseless and widely rejected claims of electoral fraud that led to a coup attempt more than a week ago overshadowed another national tragedy, the coronavirus epidemic, that shows no signs of abating and has left millions unemployed and desperate.
Biden said his brother, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, will take the oath surrounded by maybe 10% of the usual throng of members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, the diplomatic corps and other dignitaries. As Biden delivers his inaugural address, the Mall in front of him will be bereft of fans and other usual witnesses to history.
The traditional lunch in the Capitol with government officials has been canceled. Instead, the first couple will be joined by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and their spouses for a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.