Remarks by President Biden on the More Than 500,000
American Lives Lost to COVID-19
22 February 2021
Cross Hall, WHITE HOUSE
6:01 -6:11 P.M. EST
Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead.
That’s more Americans who have died in one year in this
pandemic than in World War One, World War Two,
and the Vietnam War combined. That’s more
lives lost to this virus than any
other nation on Earth.
President Joe Biden.
Each day, I receive a small card in my pocket that I carry with me in my schedule. It shows the number of Americans who have been infected by or died from COVID-19. Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead. That’s more Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War One, World War Two, and the Vietnam War combined. That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth.
But as we acknowledge the scale of this mass death in America, we remember each person and the life they lived. They’re people we knew. They’re people we feel like we knew. . . The father’s daughter who lit up his world. The best friend who was always there. The nurse — the nurse and nurses — but the nurse who made her patients want to live. . .
We all know someone — fellow Americans who lived lives of struggle, of purpose, and of hope. Who talked late into the night about their dreams; who wore the uniform, born to serve; who loved, prayed, and always offered a hand. . .
As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate. While we have been 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. And we must do so to honor the dead, but equally important, care for the living and those left behind. . .
. . .I know that when you stare at that empty chair around the kitchen table, it brings it all back, no matter how long ago it happened, as if it just happened that moment you looked at that empty chair. The birthdays, the anniversaries, the holidays without them. And the everyday things — the small things, the tiny things — that you miss the most. That scent when you open the closet. That park you go by that you used to stroll in. That movie theater where you met. The morning coffee you shared together. The bend in his smile. The perfect pitch to her laugh.
I received a letter from a daughter whose father died of COVID-19 on Easter Sunday last year. She and her children — his grandchildren — enter Lent this season, a season of reflection and renewal, with heavy hearts. Unable to properly mourn, she asked me in the letter, “What was our loss among so many others?”
Well, that’s what has been so cruel. So many of the rituals that help us cope, that help us honor those we loved, haven’t been available to us. The final rites with family gathered around. The proper homegoing, showered with stories and love. Tribal leaders passing [with]out the final traditions of sacred cultures on sacred lands. . .
For those who have lost loved ones, this is what I know: They’re never truly gone. They’ll always be part of your heart. . .
So today, I ask all Americans to remember: Remember those we lost and those who are left behind.
But as we remember — as we all remember, I also ask us to act. To remain vigilant, to . . . stay socially distanced, to mask up, get vaccinated when it’s your turn. . .
We have to fight this together, as one people, as the United States of America. That’s the only way we’re going to beat this virus, I promise you. The only way to spare more pain and more loss — the only way these millstones [sic] no longer mark our national mourning — these milestones, I should say — no longer mark our national mourning. Let this not be a story of how far we fell, but of how far we climbed back up. We can do this.
For in this year of profound loss, we have seen profound courage from all of you on the frontlines. I know the stress, the trauma, the grief you carry. But you give us hope. You keep us going. You remind us that we do take care of our own. That we leave nobody behind. And that while we have been humbled, we have never given up. We are America. We can and will do this.
In just a few minutes, Jill and I, Kamala and Doug, will hold a moment of silence here in the White House — the People’s House, your house. We ask you to join us to remember, so we can heal; to find purpose in the work ahead; to show that there is light in the darkness.
This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again. And as we do, we will remember each person we’ve lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind. 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 have lost someone. God bless you.
Featured image/Andy/Andrew Fog, CC BY2.0
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