By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The bell atop Milwaukee’s City Hall rang four times at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Each toll signified the number of lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic – nearly 400,000 people have lost their lives. The building was also aglow in amber light.
The display was a part of the National Memorial to Lives Lost to COVID-19. The memorial was a part of the inauguration President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Biden and Harris, along with their families, visited the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, which was lit with 400 lights to honor the deceased.
Buildings and landmarks throughout the nation participated in the event. In Milwaukee, this included the Hoan Bridge, the Fiserv Forum, the Marcus Performing Arts Center, the Mitchell Park Domes and several more.
“The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris represents the beginning of a new national journey — one that renews its commitment to honor its fallen and rise toward greater heights in their honor,” Tony Allen, PIC CEO and president of Delaware State University, said in the press release.
The ceremony was not only a tribute to those who have died, but a reminder to the country that in order to survive it must unite.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, Yolanda Adams, a gospel singer and Lori Marie Key, a nurse from Michigan, were also present during the event. Gregory delivered the invocation, Adams performed “Hallelujah” and Key sang “Amazing Grace.”
NBC News streamed the ceremony live.
“This virus, more than taking the lives of too many of our citizens as well as people around the globe, has left in its wake a sobering awareness that we are all united in the sorrow that we recognize today,” Gregory said. “We pray for those who have died and the families and loved ones they have left behind.”
Harris spoke following the archbishop’s prayer.
“For many months, we have grieved by ourselves,” Harris said. “Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together. Though we may be physically separated, we, the American people, are united in spirit.”
Harris said that moving forward she hopes people learn to cherish simple moments, to imagine new possibilities and to open their hearts to one another.
After Key’s performance, Biden approached the podium to share a few words.
“To heal, we must remember,” he said. “And it’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Biden explained that the lights would remain on from sundown till dusk in remembrance of all who have lost a life to this global pandemic