WILMINGTON, Del. - In an emotional farewell, President-elect Joe Biden departed his home town of Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday for the final time before he is sworn-in as the country’s next president, calling the send-off "deeply personal."
"Excuse the emotion, but when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart," Biden said, choking back tears. "The hearts of all the Bidens. We love you all, and you’ve been there for us — the good and the bad."
Biden and soon-to-be first lady Jill Biden attended the farewell event at the National Guard headquarters in Delaware named for his late son, Beau. He spoke to about 100 people, including members of Biden’s family and several Delaware elected officials.
"It's deeply personal that our next journey to Washington starts here—the place that defines the very best of who we are as Americans," he said. Biden added that his "only" regret before the inauguration is that Beau wasn't there, who died at 46 of brain cancer.
Wilmington has been the president-elect’s home for many years, indeed serving as the backdrop for many highs and lows throughout his life.
Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, but his family moved to Wilmington at age 10 in search of better work.
After attending the University of Delaware, where he double-majored in history and political science, Biden later earned a law degree at Syracuse University. He married and started a family — and went on to practice law at a firm in Wilmington while also working part-time as a public defender.
First serving on New Castle County Council, the county which encompasses Wilmington, he went on to run for U.S. Senate, becoming one of the youngest people ever elected at age 29. Weeks later, his wife, Neilia and daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident. His other two children, Hunter and Beau, were critically injured.
President-Elect Joe Biden wipes his eye as he speaks at Major Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III National Guard /Reserve Center in New Castle Airport on Jan. 19, 2021, in New Castle, Delaware, before departing for Washington, D.C. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP vi
As a result, Biden was sworn into the Senate from his sons’ hospital bedsides and commuted from Wilmington to Washington, D.C. every day while raising the young boys. Biden, who served 36 years in the Senate, continued to make the 90-minute commute throughout his entire time in Congress — earning the nickname "Amtrak Joe."
The Wilmington Amtrak station is also now named after him.
Biden married Jill Jacobs, then a high school English teacher, in 1977, and they later welcomed a daughter, Ashley Blazer Biden, named by her brothers, according to his website.
After finally moving to Washington, D.C. and serving eight years as vice president, he revived the tradition and rode the commuter train back to his home in Wilmington.
President-elect Joe Biden arrives for a church service with Dr. Jill Biden at St. Joseph on the Brandywine on Dec. 18, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware, the anniversary of the death of his first wife Neilia and daughter Naomi who were killed in a traffic
Since the 2020 election, Wilmington has served as the president-elect’s transition headquarters. As he leaves Wilmington one final time before taking the oath of office to become the country’s 46th president, the Bidens had originally planned to arrive in the nation’s capital via Amtrak train. But security concerns following the deadly Capitol riot by supporters of President Donald Trump changed their plans. They will instead travel by air.
In Washington, D.C., Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will attend a lighting ceremony on Tuesday evening at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to honor the nearly 400,000 Americans who have died during the coronavirus pandemic. Both are scheduled to speak.
He will spend the night at the Blair House, the president’s official guest house, before moving into the White House once he is sworn in on Wednesday.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.