COVID-19

Acres of White Flags Fly on National Mall for 670,000 Americans Who Died of COVID-19

"We are recapturing the human dignity of each one of these people who have been compressed, who have been reduced to numbers"

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Row after row. Acre after acre. Hundreds of thousands of flags beneath the watchful eye of the Washington Monument are in honor of the Americans lost their lives to COVID-19.

The 670,000 flags each represent a mother, a son, a friend, a neighbor.

Erin Hathaway and her husband traveled from upstate New York to be at the National Mall and plant a flag in honor of her mother on Friday.

"I’m overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed just looking at the sheer numbers," Hathaway told News4. "Our family was devastated when we lost her and she needs a face right now."

Like so many who have lost a loved one during the pandemic, Hathaway struggles with grief.

"I’m heartbroken. People say there’s a normal. I don’t have a normal. Mom is gone," she said.

Artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg created the display of flags called America Remember. She did a similar display outside of RFK Stadium last October. Since then, nearly 400,000 more people have died from the virus.

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"What we are doing is we are recapturing the human dignity of each one of these people who have been compressed, who have been reduced to numbers," Brennan Firstenberg said at Friday's ceremony for the installation.

"These flags allow us to put our arms around the magnatiude of what we've lost,"
Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch said at the ceremony.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also spoke at the ceremony and encouraged more people to get vaccinated.

"Let's keep pushing. Now is not the time to give up on our fellow Americans," Bowser said.

While Bowser has had to manage D.C.'s response to the pandemic, she also looked out over the field of flags knowing one of them represents her sister, who died from COVID-19.

"This is very hard, Mark. It's just hard," she said to News4's Mark Segraves.

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