Bells ring across Delaware Valley as US COVID-19 deaths top 400,000

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Church hymns echoed through the courtyard of Saint Peter's Church in Philadelphia's Society Hill neighborhood on Tuesday evening for all the lives lost due to COVID-19.

It was a somber evening in Philadelphia and across the country as the nation eclipsed 400,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

"In a tragic time, this is so uplifting, giving us a sense of purpose to be somewhere and to do something," said Old City resident Lynn Wexler.

Inside the bell tower at Saint Peter's, this moment is not lost on bell ringer, Ben Cornelius.

"People hear you and they're counting on you to play something that will mean something to them," said Cornelius. "In this case, it's both a somber occasion and also a hopeful occasion."

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Cornelius joins bell ringers from churches across the Delaware Valley.

In Delaware, 400 chimes from the Westminster Presbyterian Church marked the grim milestone. In Whitpain Township, Montgomery County, residents lit candles in honor of the lives lost.

Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden paused on what might have been his triumphal entrance to Washington Tuesday evening to mark instead the national tragedy.

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At a Tuesday memorial for the lives taken by COVID-19, President-elect Joe Biden called on Americans to remember those lost to the coronavirus and to begin to heal.

"To heal we must remember," the incoming president told the nation at a sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. Four hundred lights representing the pandemic's victims were illuminated behind him around the monument's Reflecting Pool.

"Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights into the darkness ... and remember all who we lost," Biden said.

Biden was joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who spoke of the collective anguish of the nation, a not-so-subtle admonishment of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has spoken sparingly about the pandemic in recent months.

"For many months we have grieved by ourselves," said Harris, who will make history as the first woman to serve as vice president when she's sworn in. "Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together."
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