TAMPA, Fla. - Dressed for winter and for COVID-19 safety, Tampa Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor found her seat at the front of the Capitol and noted how peaceful it felt.
"It was not lost on me looking up at the beautiful Capitol dome, where just two weeks ago there was a violent attack on the Capitol and on the Congress," Castor said. "It just demonstrates the resilience of America."
The other contrast is not with two weeks ago, but with four years ago, and eight years ago, when the National Mall was filled with hundreds of thousands of people to see the new president sworn in. But this January 20, it felt different.
"[Back then] there was a little bit of a celebratory atmosphere, but it was mostly subdued, and serious," she explained.
COVID-19 safety protocols changed everything.
"It was different to see Joe Biden kind of acknowledge the pain in the country by looking across our national mall full of flags," Castor shared.
Although the outgoing president decided not to attend, she was encouraged by the presence of other prominent Republicans, including former President Bush, his dad's vice president, Dan Quayle, former house speaker Paul Ryan and most members of current Congressional leadership.
She hopes that unity lowers the temperature, and agreed with the new president's attempts to reach out.
"We are not going to agree on everything all the time," she explained. "That is not what we do in a democracy in a very diverse country. But we do have to have common causes. One is going to be defeating the pandemic and getting folks back to work."
Castor says the first priority for the new administration should be COVID-19 vaccine distribution because she says the state of Florida is falling short of the doses it needs.