From computer screens, Alaskans watch virtual presidential inauguration

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris arrive at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier...
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris arrive at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery during Inauguration Day ceremonies in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)(Evan Vucci | AP)
Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 3:21 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On an overcast day in Anchorage, Alaskans watched history unfold thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.

Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States and Kamala Harris broke several barriers at once as the first woman, first Black American and first person of South Asian descent to hold the nation’s second-highest office.

“This is America’s day,” Biden said as he began his inaugural address. “This is democracy’s day.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent violence at the U.S. Capitol made for an inauguration unlike any other. In an event designed for a virtual audience, Alaskans watched from computer screens and flatscreen televisions as darkness turned to a glowing blue outside.

“Such a great day for our country,” Angel Abbott wrote on Alaska’s News Source’s live feed of the inauguration.

“Great day!!” wrote Karen Willard.

“Yay, bye, Trump!” Paulette Moore from Anchorage said.

Former President Donald Trump handily won Alaska in 2016 and maintained a close relationship with Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The governor offered sharp criticism of the new administration’s first day in office.

One of Biden’s first actions impacts Alaska with an expected moratorium on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This comes a day after the Trump administration issued nine oil and gas leases in the refuge’s coastal plain.

“Alaska does responsible oil and gas development in the Arctic better than anyone, and yet our economic future is at risk should this line of attack on our sovereignty and well-being continue,” an emailed news release from Dunleavy’s office read.

Many Alaskans were focused on the historical moment of Harris, who is taking office at a moment when Americans are confronting institutional racism and a deadly pandemic that has disproportionately devastated Black and brown communities.

“Tomorrow, we’ll be able to say Madam Vice President for the first time and words cannot adequately convey what that means for women and girls across this country,” Heidi Drygas, the former commissioner of labor and workforce development under former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, wrote on Twitter the night before.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, bundled up in a brown leather jacket with fur trim, posted pictures of herself and her husband at the inauguration, alongside Sen. Margaret Collins of Maine.

Both lawmakers were part of the bipartisan group of 10 senators who issued a statement calling for Congress to certify Biden’s win two weeks ago.

In a statement, they said that efforts by some Republicans to overturn the results in favor of Trump “are contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the already determined election results.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan’s office said the senator also planned to attend the event. Emails and phone calls requesting if Rep. Don Young would attend went unanswered.

Anchorage resident Gordan Homme said he still supports Trump.

“Trump has for the public, in general, you know people and, minorities, and all that,” Homme said. “I don’t know what is the beef is about it.”

“I’m praying for the nation,” Sherry Whah, a Trump supporter from Anchorage, said.

Several people polled by Alaska’s News Source said they were relieved that Biden and Harris won.

“I feel like I can finally breathe again,” Carrie Lavallee from Anchorage said. “I feel like the first time in four years I don’t have to wake-up with anxiety.”

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