President Joe Biden delivered an emotional address to Americans soon after the death toll from the coronavirus passed 500,000, a staggering number that tops the amount of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined.
Assuming the role of consoler-in-chief, the president spoke directly to those who lost a loved one to the virus. In acknowledging the "scale of this mass death," Biden said it was important to "remember each person and the life they lived."
"The people we lost were extraordinary, and they span generations," Biden said from the White House. "Just like that, so many of them took their final breath alone."
"As a nation, we can't accept such a cruel fate," Biden continued, adding: "While we've been fighting this epidemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow."
Biden himself is familiar with tragedy, having lost his first wife and young daughter in a car crash in 1972; his eldest son, Beau Biden, later died after battling brain cancer in 2015.
It was these personal battles that Biden leaned on during his address, becoming visibly emotional at times as he offered advice to those experiencing a similar sorrow.
"Those who have lost loved ones, this is what I know: they're never truly gone. They'll always be part of your heart," Biden said.
"It seems unbelievable but I promise you, the day will come when the memory of the one you have lost will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye," he continued. "My prayer for you is that day will come sooner rather than later. And that's when you know you're gonna be okay. And for me, the way through sorrow and grief is to find purpose."
Following his address, Biden was joined by first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and second gentleman Doug Emhoff for a ceremonial moment of silence to honor the 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19.
Following the moment of silence, a military band played "Amazing Grace" as 500 candles burned in a candle lighting ceremony to honor the 500,000 victims.
Earlier in the day, the president ordered all flags on federal property to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Feb. 26 as further commemoration to those who died from coronavirus.
Monday’s ceremony was the second time Biden publicly honored the victims of the coronavirus.
On Jan. 19 – the day before the inauguration – Biden, Harris, and their spouses took part in the first-ever lighting ceremony around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the same day the U.S. surpassed the grim milestone of over 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus.
At the time, Biden offered a message of unity to a deeply divided nation, saying: “To heal, we must remember. It’s hard, sometimes, to remember. But that’s how we heal.”