Even before rioters stormed the Capitol two weeks ago, the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president was going to look different from ceremonies past.
The risk of large crowds with the ongoing pandemic meant there would be no parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and many of the usual performances and speakers had been replaced with plans for virtual events.
The scaled-down Inauguration Day events represent a loss of what some scholars call "a civil religion" that binds people together, says Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center.
"When we don't have the serious parts of our [civil religion], the celebratory parts of that, it's like losing one's religion and ceremonies all at the same time," she says.
With the biggest security presence of any inauguration in history and the National Mall shut down to the public, D.C. residents say they've "never seen anything like this" in their city.
On Monday, Lisa and Alex Brittain made their way toward D.C.'s Union Station, inspecting the fences and security checkpoints along the way.
"It's security on steroids," Lisa Brittain said.
Jackie Coleman, who lives in D.C.'s Southeast district, said her commute had doubled due to the preparations.
"We've never had all this, so it's a little different," she said. "But at least I feel protected, you know?"
Without a big parade or throngs of observers, Wednesday's events will be missing some of the standard fanfare of inaugurations past. But Perry said even the "miniature version" of the inauguration ceremony that will take place in front of the Capitol means a continuation of tradition — that part, at least, will look the same.
"Just as long as the photographers don't take photos looking down the Mall," Perry said.
Here's a look at Inauguration Day festivities throughout history, including elements that Biden's ceremony will miss.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
Daniel Wood is a visual journalist at NPR, where he brings data and analyses into complex topics by paired reporting with custom charts, maps and explainers. He focuses on data-rich topics like COVID-19 outcomes, climate change and politics. His interest in tracking a small outbreak of a novel coronavirus in January 2020 helped position NPR to be among the leading news organizations to provide daily updates on the growth and impact of COVID-19 around the country and globe.
Hey! Did you enjoy this story? We can’t do it without you. We are member-supported, so your donation is critical to KOSU's news reporting and music programming. Help support the reporters, DJs and staff of the station you love.