Inauguration day looked just like any other day in the Mission: bright and sunny, and absent of any street celebrations that erupted after the election. But small signals of the day’s significance — a Kamala Harris shirt here, someone softly playing audio from the inauguration there — belied a greater sense of relief and hope.
To many, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ inauguration marks a new start for a country beset with a pandemic, partisan polarization and the aftermath of the angry mob that stormed the Capitol.
Cheryl Wang, 28, said she watched the inauguration while singing along to “Amazing Grace” after the music drifted into her room from her neighbor’s apartment. Although the pandemic has pushed everyone apart, Wang said she felt a feeling of togetherness while watching the inauguration and hearing the music.
“I was literally crying — it was such a moment,” she said. “It felt very much like a new start.”
A 48-year-old immigrant from Mexico who is still seeking asylum said he had lost faith in the country during Trump’s presidency. He’s lived in the Mission for 20 years after fleeing Mexico, when his father was killed and his family was put in danger. Although he is an accountant by trade, he has been out of work for months.
With the combination of Biden’s presidency and a job interview soon, he’s starting to feel life might work out for him. “Biden’s speech really resonated and reassured me that I had made the right decision to come to the country,” he said. “I am just happy, I was really moved.”
The inauguration itself was a spectacle, marked by memorable moments like 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman’s recitation of “The Hill We Climb,” a poem that captured both the chaos and hope of the current moment. Biden used his speech to promote a unified vision for the country’s future: “For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos,” he said.
Gus Davis, an 81-year-old retired military veteran, said the inauguration was fantastic. He plans to go home and watch the highlights again.
“Oh, gee wiz!” he exclaimed. “[Trump] almost destroyed the country in four years. He hurt people — like the immigration policy was terrible, and he lied all the time.”
He said he “hopes we can get back to some semblance of what we were.”
For those with children, the election of Biden as the next president takes on another level of significance: What type of role model the nation’s top official will set for children. Alvin Garcia, the owner of Mission Street Burgers, said having an “adult” in the White House will be good for his young son, Diego.
“It will be nice having somebody to look up to and idolize as far as humility, empathy, kindness and all the traits that we want our kids to have goes,” he said.
Not everyone in the district had a particularly strong reaction to the day. Daniel, a security guard on Valencia, mimed looking down at his phone and checking the morning news: “Oh, cool, all right. Now back to my podcast.”
And those who implied they had voted for Trump or were apolitical seemed wary of speaking to a reporter.
A U.S Postal Service Worker said that he didn’t want to talk because he was on the clock, but he did add that he “doesn’t feel too much, personally.”
In terms of what residents hope to see from a Biden administration, the list runs the gamut from more progressive policies, like universal healthcare and reparations, to solidly mainstream measures, like climate change and immigration reform.
Juana Laurel, who has worked for 12 years at Qosqo Maky, a store that sells artisan items from Peru, told Mission Local in Spanish that she watched the inauguration with Spanish translation this morning and believes Biden is “going to work for the working-class Latino people in this democratic country where we want the American dream.”
And Robert Lepe, who takes care of his uncle in the Mission, is looking forward to seeing how Biden handles the pandemic. He said his nearly three-year-old son, Robert Lepe, Jr., has only known masks at school. Both Lepe and his wife woke up early to see Air Force One lift President Trump away, fell back asleep, then woke up again to see Biden sworn in.
“We get the right people at the top of the food chain, and maybe it will help us get out the vaccine and also help people get to work as quickly as they can,” Lepe said.
Crismerly Santibañez, a creative who manages Laundré on the side, said she is relieved that the Trump era is over, but there is still more work to do
“There are still a lot of systemic problems in this country that we need to acknowledge before we can move on, but a lot of people just want to move on,” she said.
Others simply wanted to enjoy the possibilities of the moment.
“It’s a new day, so hopefully things will change and get back to normal,” said Norman Ferrer, a union electrician who lives in Diamond Heights, but was sitting outside enjoying a treat from Arizmendi Bakery with his two-and-a-half-year-old son.