National Mall

‘Therapeutic': GW Students Catalog Flags for COVID-19 Victims on National Mall

The students' efforts provide an opportunity for people to commemorate loved ones online

NBC Universal, Inc.

George Washington University student volunteers spearheaded efforts to geolocate and photograph more than 10,800 dedicated flags at the “In America: Remember” art installation on the National Mall with the hopes of providing the public the opportunity to view them online.

For those unable to attend the installation in person, or who simply want to know where a specific flag was planted, people will be able to find the flags virtually via the installation’s website.

The 670,000 memorial flags were installed in mid-September and will be removed this Sunday.

Unfortunately time has passed to submit flag dedications online for the "In America: Remember" installation. However, until Oct. 3 you may fill out this form and share memories of loved ones on the COVID Loved Ones map.

“These flags are incredible; they come alive;" said GW anthropology professor Sarah Wagner. "You have probably heard it when the wind kicks up, and that is extraordinary because that gives us the feel for the collective. How do you take 680,000 and make it somehow materialized to get people thinking, while at the same time honoring each individual?”

Photos: Thousands of Flags Cover the National Mall to Memorialize COVID-19 Deaths

Wagner, alongside a team of five GW students, has been leading student volunteers to fulfill GW’s commitment to geolocate flags. The commitment began when an earlier display outside RFK Stadium was being taken down.

Wagner dedicated a flag herself in remembrance of a loved one.

"We needed him to be seen and recognized," she said.

The total number of COVID-19 deaths continues to rise daily, which can be seen reflected on an enormous sign on the northeast corner of the installation.

“Seeing this and being able to think about each person, give meaning to each single flag is therapeutic, shocking and important,” said student Camila Campos, who volunteers at the installation in between her GW classes.

Due to GW’s proximity to the art installation, about 200 GW student have volunteered to help remember COVID-19 victims. So far, students have geolocated 7,145 flags and have about 3,600 more to go.

Campos herself has geolocated 450 flags.

“There are many phrases I have connected to, because I would have put them down myself. It is very touching," Campos said. "Some flags have pictures pasted to them, or flowers, so I feel like people are treating the installation like a grave, since many people couldn’t have a funeral because of COVID-19."

The installation reminds people they are not alone in their mourning.

Contact Us