Flags on National Mall Will Honor U.S. Coronavirus Victims

Hundreds of thousands of white flags will be planted along the National Mall in Washington in September to memorialize the more than 600,000 people who have died from Covid-19 in the United States.

For two weeks, from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3, the installation, “In America: Remember,” will blanket 20 acres of federal park land near the Washington Monument, and those who have lost someone to the pandemic will be able to submit dedications for the flags.

The artist who announced the project on Thursday, Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, planted 267,000 flags in Washington last fall to recognize what was then the death toll of Covid in the United States.

The pandemic has since taken hundreds of thousands of additional lives, and the coming installation will more than double the number of flags. The memorial will also be spread across a more prominent location: along the National Mall and bordering the White House, the Washington Monument, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the World War II Memorial.

Ms. Firstenberg said that an observer standing on the Truman Balcony at the White House would see a “blanket of white” in front of the Washington Monument.

Placing the installation next to the African American history museum was an intentional choice, Ms. Firstenberg said. People of color were disproportionately affected by the virus throughout the pandemic, largely because of social inequality. Black Americans were far more likely to become infected, more than twice as likely to die from it, and had a harder time getting vaccinated.

“Inequity is at the core of why communities of color have been disproportionately affected by this,” Ms. Firstenberg said, explaining that she planned to plant the first flags “in the shadow” of the museum.

She said that she was compelled to create the installation because of her outrage toward public officials who sought to downplay the growing death toll as “just a statistic.” Now, she added, the second iteration of the installation was meant to encourage hesitant Americans to get vaccinated.

“The last thing I want to do is to have to buy any more flags,” Ms. Firstenberg said. “And the best way to do that is to get vaccinated.”

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