600,000 flags to be placed at National Mall to honor COVID-19 deaths

▶ Watch Video: 20,000 empty chairs outside White House commemorate 200,000 lives lost to COVID-19

More than 600,000 white flags will cover the National Mall in Washington, D.C., honoring each person who has died from COVID-19 in the United States. There have been 33,948,497 COVID-19 cases and 608,141 deaths in the U.S.

The art installation, “In America: Remember,” was created by Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, who first placed white flags outside of the capital’s RFK Stadium in October 2020.

As the number of COVID-19 deaths in the country grew, so did the number of flags. “After 165,000 flags were planted in the center, the public was invited to help plant the remaining flags in sections under the trees,” Firstenberg’s website reads. “When we ran out of space in this massive field, we moved into adjacent green spaces for placement of flags.” 

The installation, called “In America: How could this happen…,” ended on November 30. Visitors were allowed to personalized flags for loved ones lost to COVID-19. 

Art installation of white flags in Washington for the staggering loss of Covid-19 An art installation created with 200,000 white flags representing the staggering loss of Covid-19, at the D.C. Armory near RFK Stadium in Southeast Washington, D.C., United States on November 20, 2020.

Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“By the end of the exhibit 1,905 flags were dedicated with names, dates, and special messages,” according to the website. “A selection of personalized flags has been acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.”

The new installation at the National Mall will also feature personalized flags made by visitors, and those who can’t visit in person can dedicate a flag through the In America website. 

The flags will be on display from September 17 to October 3, 2021.

Similar installations have been displayed in Washington, DC and across the country. In June 2020, 164 pairs of nurses’ shoes were placed on the lawn of the Capitol – one for every nurse who had died while working in the fight against COVID-19.


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Man plants 25,000 flags for COVID victims

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In October, the nation’s first National COVID-19 Remembrance Day was marked with a powerful installation outside the White House. Twenty-thousand empty chairs were lined up on the Ellipse, a large lawn outside of the White House. Each one represented 10 lives lost to COVID-19. At the time, coronavirus infections had killed 210,000 people in the United States.

Ahead of Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended a memorial honoring the lives lost to COVID-19 – 400,000, at that time. The ceremony, hosted by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, featured 400 lights turned on around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. 

During that time, the National Mall was closed to visitors due to security concerns surrounding the inauguration, and instead, there was a display of thousands of flags representing Americans who cannot attend the inauguration in person due to the pandemic.

Like Firstenberg, a man in Texas decided to fill his lawn with white flags to represent Texans who died from the virus. In December, 25,000 small flags covered Shane Reilly’s Austin yard. He said he hoped the installation would encourage people to take COVID-19 prevention measures seriously. 

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