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'There's No Comparison': Mass. Congressional Delegation Describes An Inauguration Like No Other03:16
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People attend the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
People attend the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation had front row seats to an inauguration unlike any other Wednesday.

Kind of.

Some of those seats were farther from the president's podium than usual because of the pandemic and security concerns. Nevertheless, lawmakers said they felt compelled to attend, as a show of resilience in a trying time.

"There's no comparison to this and the other inaugurations that I've attended," said Rep. Bill Keating. "I've been to the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, visiting the troops, and this is more akin to what I saw there."

The heavy military presence was a response to the insurrection at the Capitol two weeks ago.

And because of the pandemic's physical distancing requirements, Keating and many other rank-and-file members of Congress had distant vantage points that would normally go to their constituent guests.

There were far fewer regular citizens in the crowd than is typical.

"People, frankly, didn't want — once they realized the screening, with COVID, once they realized the security issues, I had everyone decline," Keating said. "And I'm not alone."

Some prominent lawmakers, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Assistant Speaker of the House Katherine Clark, could be seen in the stands near President Biden. Clark said she missed the crowd and the joyful atmosphere of past ceremonies.

"I wish that this inauguration was like so many of our others, where there is an air of hope and optimism and celebration, instead of one that has been cast with the shadow of fear," she said.

Fortunately, fear remained nothing more than a shadow. The inauguration went off without incident — and without former President Trump, who defied the norms of American democracy by refusing to concede his election defeat and declining to attend his successor's swearing-in.

Rep. Stephen Lynch said he's relieved that a contentious chapter in U.S. history is over.

"I'm most looking forward to President Trump being gone," Lynch said. "And hopefully the country turning a new page, reflected in Joe Biden and [Vice President] Kamala Harris, their leadership — just a return to some sense of normalcy from the office of the president."

"Normal" is not the word Rep. Lori Trahan used to describer her first inauguration as a lawmaker. But she managed to enjoy it, anyway.

"Well, it was a beautiful day," she said, "and there was so much energy and optimism in the air."

Many traditional festivities, like the inaugural balls, had to be canceled this year. While that may be disappointing, Trahan said a more subdued inauguration fits a moment when serious business confronts the new administration.

"You can't forget that we passed another grim milestone yesterday: 400,000 Americans dead from COVID-19," she noted. "And that's heavy, right?"

Trahan and other members of Massachusetts' congressional delegation said they hope Congress can pass another round of coronavirus relief soon. Their task could be easier, now that Democrats control both chambers.

This segment aired on January 20, 2021.

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Callum covers the Greater Boston business community for Bostonomix.

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