‘America is hurting’: Artist reflects on National Mall exhibit of pandemic’s toll

October 4, 2021

The shadow of the Washington Monument falls over a field of flags for COVID victims on Sept. 25, 2021. Through her "In America: Remember" exhibit, artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg seeks to memorialize each victim of COVID-19 through Oct. 3. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)

For just over three weeks, hundreds of white flags blanketed D.C.’s National Mall in a solemn reminder of the COVID-19 pandemic’s massive — and ongoing — cost in American lives.

“In America: Remember” memorialized the more than 700,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 as of early October. Artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg created the exhibit, which ran from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3.

In a conversation with WTOP, Firstenberg shared her reflections on the installation and what it meant for her. Jessica Balthazar — an ICU nurse who worked in Queens, New York, at the height of the pandemic — also shared her thoughts on the thousands of white flags that stood across the Mall.

Find the podcast below, accompanied by photography and video from WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez.

Editor’s note: The images below were taken on Sept. 25, 2021, when the confirmed U.S. death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic stood at 684,428. On Oct. 2 — one week later — that figure surpassed 700,000 and continues to climb, despite the availability of vaccines to forestall serious illness.

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