President Joe Biden, first lady Dr. Jill Biden and family walk on Pennsylvania Avenue during the 59th presidential inauguration parade.
Dina Litovsky for TIME
January 20, 2021 4:55 PM EST

Jan. 20 began on a much more somber note than Joe Biden could have predicted for the day he would finally become President of the United States. He was supposed to arrive in Washington, D.C. this week via Amtrak, his beloved method of public transportation. But security concerns after Donald Trump incited his supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 prompted Biden to switch plans and fly on a private plane instead. He spent the night before his inauguration visiting a memorial for the more than 400,000 Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19 set up around the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial, and the pandemic hung over the proceedings as the day began for his swearing in ceremony, too.

Four years ago, Trump introduced his tenure by telling an excited crowd gathered at the Capitol about the “American carnage” he hoped to reverse while the other half of the country watched with trepidation. This time, there are purposefully no crowds and fewer public events scheduled to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Instead, large portions of D.C. were locked down as the sun came up, and 25,000 National Guard members patrolled the city to help secure the day’s events.

Still, the day has plenty of pomp planned as Biden is expected to speak about uniting the country before he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take their oaths of office on the west front of the Capitol and then get escorted to the White House. In the afternoon, a “virtual parade” will showcase performances from every state and territory in the country and a primetime television event will cap off the evening, giving Americans at least some sense of spectacle to watch from their own homes.

Below, TIME’s photo editors select the best photographs from a day that is projecting twin images of a nation struggling to contain its chaos and an Administration aiming for a return to buoyant normalcy.

President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and family watch fireworks from the Blue Room Balcony of the White House.
Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images
Fireworks explode over the Washington Monument, as seen from Arlington, Va.
Cliff Owen—AP
President Joe Biden holds his grandson Beau Biden at the White House.
Evan Vucci—AP
President Joe Biden conducts a virtual swearing in ceremony for members of his new administration in the State Dining Room at the White House.
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images
President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office at the White House, after being sworn in.
Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images
President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden walk up the stairs as they arrive at the North Portico of the White House.
Shutterstock
Vice President Kamala Harris hugs her great niece near the White House.
Graeme Sloan—Sipa USA
Former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence speak with Vice President Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff, after the inauguration.
Melina Mara—Pool/The Washington Post/Shutterstock
Attendees exit the inauguration.
Philip Montgomery for TIME
President Joe Biden is seen after giving his inaugural address.
Shutterstock
A social distanced crowd, looks on for the inaugural ceremony.
Liu Jie—Xinhua/Sipa USA
President Joe Biden delivers his inauguration address.
Win McNamee—Getty Images
President Joe Biden hugs his family after being sworn in.
Kevin Dietsch—UPI/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible.
Andrew Harnik—Pool/AP
Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible.
Saul Loeb—Pool/AP
Vice President Kamala Harris is sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Robert Deutsch—USA TODAY/Sipa USA
Jennifer Lopez, right, greets Lady Gaga during the 59th presidential inauguration.
Jonathan Ernst—Pool/Reuters
Amanda Gorman recites a poem.
Jonathan Ernst—Pool/Reuters
Senator Bernie Sanders wears mittens as he attends the inauguration.
Jonathan Ernst—Pool/Reuters
Lady Gaga arrives to sing the National Anthem at the inauguration.
Win McNamee—Getty Images/Shutterstock
President-elect Joe Biden greets President Barack Obama as he arrives to the West Front of the Capitol.
Caroline Brehman—CQ Roll Call/Shutterstock
President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill, walk out for the 59th Presidential Inauguration.
Patrick Semansky—Pool/AP
U.S. Capitol Police are seen ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Melina Mara—Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris greets Vice President Mike Pence as she arrives to the inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.
Alex Wong—Getty Images
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff arrive to the inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.
Win McNamee—Getty Images
Former President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are seen prior to the 59th Presidential Inauguration.
Shutterstock
Senators arrive prior to the 59th Presidential Inauguration.
Shutterstock
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris arrive at the East Front steps of the U.S. Capitol prior the 2021 Presidential Inauguration.
Dina Litovsky for TIME
Members of a band prepare for the inauguration.
Philip Montgomery for TIME
Trump family members stand on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland as they arrive for President Donald Trump's departure on Jan. 20.
Alex Edelman—AFP/Getty Images
Marine One circles the National Mall carrying Donald Trump as he departs the White House ahead of the inauguration.
Philip Montgomery for TIME
Outgoing President Donald Trump waves as he boards Marine One at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20.
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images
Security and fencing in front of the U.S. Capitol building prior to the start inauguration.
Marcus Yam—Los Angeles Times/Polaris
Chairs for officials and guests are set up one day before the Jan. 20, 2021, inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in Washington, D.C.
Dina Litovsky for TIME
A field of flags on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, one day before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. The public art display features nearly 200,000 flags, representing Americans who would have gathered for the inauguration, according to the organizing committee.
Philip Montgomery for TIME
Preparations on Pennsylvania Avenue for Biden-Harris inauguration events, outside the gate of the White House, on Jan. 18, 2021.
Philip Montgomery for TIME
Inside security zone by the White House.
Dina Litovsky for TIME
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Write to Abigail Abrams at abigail.abrams@time.com.

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