The United States of America welcomed a new presidential administration on Wednesday, Jan. 20, in an Inauguration Day unlike any other, for numerous reasons. As President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in at the nation’s Capitol — where just two weeks prior a deadly insurrection took place — Queens officials reflected on the day.
“I congratulate Joe Biden on becoming the 46th president of the United States, and I cannot wait to partner with him and our new Vice President Kamala Harris to address the many critical issues impacting our country,” Congresswoman Grace Meng said. “As I have said, I look forward to opening a new chapter in our history with the Biden-Harris administration. It will be an era that promises to be one of healing, hope, and opportunity for the American people.”
Meng, who has spoken candidly about the attacks on the Capitol, praised Biden’s agenda with immediate actions to combat the pandemic, address immigration, expand health care, among many other issues.
“Better days are ahead under President Biden’s leadership, and I look forward to working with him and his administration to improve the lives of my constituents in Queens and Americans everywhere,” Meng added.
Wednesday’s inauguration was scaled down in comparison to previous inaugurations, not only because of COVID-19 precautions, but also due to the Capitol attacks by pro-Trump insurrectionists on Jan. 6.
Following a rally former President Donald Trump held at the White House, where he continued to deny the results of the election, hundreds of pro-Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, threatening the lives of former Vice President Mike Pence and other lawmakers as they certified the Electoral College votes.
Five people, including one Capitol police officer, died. Hundreds have since been arrested and are awaiting trial.
The following day, Queens elected officials began to call for Trump’s removal from office.
In anticipation of the inauguration, there had been heightened security at the Capitol, including 25,000 National Guard troops who underwent additional vetting after some army veterans and law enforcement officers were found to be among the Capitol insurrectionists.
On Wednesday morning, Trump left the White House before the inaugural ceremonies, again breaking with tradition by not welcoming the new administration. He left after 8 a.m. with former first lady Melania Trump on Air Force One toward his home in Florida, according to Reuters.
Before he left, he spoke about his administration’s accomplishments and told a small group of attendees, “we’ll be back in some form.” Trump leaves the White House being the first president in history to be impeached twice by Congress, with an impending trial in the Senate.
Before Inauguration Day, Congressman Tom Suozzi shared a short video on Twitter from inside the Capitol building. He said he arrived early, took his COVID test but was struck by how “eerie” and quiet things were there.
“I wanted to come here and really reflect on what a great honor it is for me to be in this position, and the great responsibility that I have,” Suozzi said. “I guess a lot of us have not allowed ourselves to be excited at all about the inauguration yet, but I’m letting myself enjoy it a little bit and still have the same concerns that everybody else does that things go smoothly.”
The following day, as officials gathered at the National Mall before the day’s ceremonies, Suozzi shared another video at the Capitol with fellow Congress members captioned “A new day in America.”
He said that although he “wouldn’t let himself get excited,” he is now “really happy.”
“President Joe Biden is exactly the person we need right now at this time in American history. The country is divided and has been through a trauma,” Suozzi said. “Joe Biden will bridge our divide and work to heal our nation. He can and he will bring us together because he knows the politics, he knows the policy, and he knows the people.”
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez said she is “ready to usher in a new era where we move this country forward.”
“There is so much to do, let’s celebrate today and get to work,” Velazquez wrote in a tweet.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney shared images arriving at the Capitol.
“We all worked hard to get to THIS Inauguration Day,” Maloney wrote in a tweet Wednesday morning. “I want to especially thank all the Biden-Harris [and] Dem volunteers who helped make today happen.”
Congressman Gregory Meeks said the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris is “significant for many reasons, not least of which is the message it sends to the world.”
“America is not defined by the last 4 years,” he wrote in a tweet. “As we turn the page, I’m eager to work with this administration to repair our global standing.”
By noon on Wednesday, Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. He assumes a country reeling from political divide, a frail economy, and a raging pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 people in the United States.
“Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew, and America has risen to the challenge,” Biden said. “Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause: the cause of democracy […] At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
Biden, the oldest man to serve as president at 78 years old, thanked his predecessors from both parties, and emphasized unity in order to overcome the obstacles the nation currently faces.
“With unity, we could do great things and right wrongs,” he said. “We can make America once again, a leading force for good in the world.”
Vice President Harris is now the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as second in command. She was sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Puerto Rican member in the Supreme Court.
The ceremony included performances from Lady Gaga, who sang the national anthem, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks, as well as poet Amanda Gorman, who made history as the youngest woman to recite a poem at the inauguration.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez congratulated President Biden and Vice President Harris in a tweet following the ceremony.
“A historic day. Congratulations to our new President @JoeBiden and our new Vice President @KamalaHarris,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “Now we must begin creating justice, healing our planet, and improving the material conditions for all people. The work is on all of us to organize and build a better future.”
This story first appeared on our sister publication qns.com.