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Joe Biden’s inauguration was replete with anxiety, and a lot of it was Jewish

20 11 12

WASHINGTON (JTA) — I walked to US President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transport Authority closed 13 downtown stations January 15-21, so I couldn’t take the Metro to Lafayette Square, where I was headed for a stand built for reporters to watch Joe and Jill Biden walk up the semicircular drive and into the White House.

I didn’t miss taking the Metro, until I did.

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Taking the subway to the inaugural festivities in 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2017, I was carried on a wave of parka-clad humans jammed into cars steamy with excitement. Passengers carried folded banners like barely concealed secrets, eager to explode on cold bright mornings into reds and blues and exclamations of fealty to George W. Bush, then Barack Obama, then Donald Trump.

This time I walked the two miles from Arlington, Virginia, the leafy DC suburb where I live — and where the insanity of recent weeks is barely perceptible — into empty downtown Washington transformed during a pandemic and pro-Trump insurrection by checkpoints, boarded windows, armored vehicles and troops.

I crossed over the Potomac River on a bridge named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the national anthem, and into Georgetown, the village that predates America. Then into the famed K Street corridor, lined with stately buildings and bereft of living beings.

I said “Good morning!” to the few people I encountered, homeless or in uniform. A woman waiting for a bus in Georgetown was my single civilian encounter and the only one who replied.

“It’s a new day!” she said, her eyes smiling above her green mask. A National Guard member stands at a roadblock near the US Supreme Court ahead of PresidentJoe Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

I missed the chance encounters essential to my reporting, especially about Jews. Such unprompted encounters happen even at events as hyper-curated as inaugurals: running into fans of Rabbi Marvin Hier in 2017; overhearing one rabbi in 2013 confess to another that she snuck changes into a speech scripted for her by the National Cathedral to make it “a little Jewier.”

On K Street, I spotted clusters of humans ahead on the corners of 16th and 15th, the streets that lead south toward Pennsylvania........

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