National Mall COVID-19 flag memorial commemorates 610,00 U.S. deaths

Maryland artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg will bring In America: Remember, a public art installation commemorating all Americans who have died due to COVID-19 to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The National Mall COVID-19 flag memorial will debut this September with Firstenberg planting more than 610,000 white flags on 20 acres of the National Mall for two weeks creating a national opportunity to reflect upon the enormous toll of the pandemic of 2020 and 2021. 

“This fall as employers bring workers back to office buildings and students return to school, it will be too easy to ‘go back to normal’, but for one in three American families, there is no normal,” Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg said of her National Mall COVID-19 flag memorial project. “This exhibit honors all who have died, but it is more than an act of remembrance. In America: Remember, will provide an historic visual reminding us for years to come that being an American means caring for all Americans. We cannot let this ever happen again. Our strength comes from the degree to which we stand side-by-side in the face of the challenges that lie ahead.”  

In America: Remember will run from September 17 through October 3, 2021 and will be the largest participatory art installation on the National Mall since the AIDS Quilt

The public can participate in this National Mall COVID-19 flag memorial two ways: During the exhibition in September, visitors can walk through the 3.8 miles of paths within this immense field of flags and dedicate a flag if they lost a loved one to COVID-19.

Starting July 15, for those who cannot visit in September, the exhibition will be mirrored in the digital sphere. At InAmericaFlags.org, those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 can submit a dedication. Volunteers will inscribe and plant their flag on the National Mall when flag planting begins in September.

“As the United States barrels towards normal, many in the Covid loss community feel like our loved ones are being pushed aside as inconvenient statistics,” Sabila Khan, co-founder of Covid-19 Loss Support for Family & Friends, said. “There is a real fear that they will be forgotten, and that we will be left behind to suffer the trauma of Covid loss on our own. In recentering the Covid conversation around the heartbreaking human toll of this virus, Suzanne Firstenberg’s art is a clarion call for this nation to never forget the over 607,000 Americans we’ve lost in this unprecedented season of grief.”

This will be the second installation of In America. During the fall of 2020, thousands of visitors toured a four-acre site at RFK Stadium covered in 267,080 white flags before the exhibition ran out of space due to the mounting toll. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History acquired a collection of the white flags that had been on display at the D.C. Armory Parade Grounds adjacent to RFK stadium. Collectively, the flags represent the diversity and complexity of how this pandemic has affected the nation. These flags join a collection of artifacts related to the discovery, research, response and loss that has continued as a result of COVID-19. 

The public’s incredible response to the initial exhibition made possible this poignant moment for our nation. Generations to come will look at the image of all the flags on the National Mall and they will know not only how this happened, but why remembering mattered. 

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