This is a presidential address to Congress like no other on a hot Washington evening.
On my way in, Capitol Hill was dotted with police and soldiers in military fatigues, a group of picnickers, a jogger or two, and a few congressional staff heading home. Some high-security fencing was a lingering reminder of the deadly 6 January insurrection.
I went to a congressional office building, passed through an airport-style metal detector, walked a couple of empty corridors, took a lift down to the basement, then showed proof of a coronavirus test taken on Monday. I was given a wristband and ticket, passed through another metal detector and walked through an underground tunnel to the House of Representatives.
The House press gallery, usually teeming with so many reporters that desk space is hard to come by, is much quieter and low-key tonight and everyone is masked.
Instead of the usual 1,600 people in the House chamber for a state of the union-style address, this time there only be 200 with no guests permitted (except virtually), because of coronavirus safety restrictions. Some tickets were decided on a first-come-first-served basis, others by lottery. Chief justice John Roberts will be the only member of the supreme court present.
There is also no need for a “designated survivor” this time. This is a senior official who typically stays away at a secure location in case catastrophe strikes the House and wipes out the president, vice president and cabinet.
Soon we will file into the House chamber, where guns were drawn to defend members from the mob on 6 January. As at his inauguration, Biden will be speaking both to those watching at home and those watching (and applauding) in person: he has become adept at speaking intimately to the TV camera, but now he must also command a cavernous room.
My high vantage point will allow me some great people-watching in the chamber but will deny me a view of the historic tableau of two women – Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi – sitting behind Biden. The replays on TV will have to do.