COVID Flags of Remembrance
Photography and Text by Carol Guzy
American artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg was the creator of “In America: Remember,” a public art installation on display from September 17 to October 3, 2021, in Washington, D.C., to honor Americans who died in the COVID-19 pandemic. It served as a memorial where people gathered to weep, share stories and embrace as they sought solace.
Over 600,000 small white flags, each one signifying a life lost, blanketed a section of the National Mall near the Washington Monument.
Visitors to the physical installation as well as to its website were invited to dedicate personalized messages to those they had lost. Volunteers would then write the names of the deceased along with the messages on individual flags at the installation. Names and stories of those that died on the flags fluttered in the wind like angel wings.
The location of each flag and a photo of the flag and its personalized message, was displayed on the exhibition’s website, along with a live webcam of the exhibition.
The number of flags rose to 701,133 by the end of the exhibition, reflecting the updated death toll.
At the close of the exhibition, as the last flag was pulled from the ground, a woman yelled to the artist, “Thank you. My mother died of Covid.”
All that was left on the ground that day were the well worn paths of visitors and family that found catharsis and community in their collective grief as well as an emptiness that echoed the loss of over 700,000 souls etched on the hearts of loved ones.
As of December 26, 2021, over 52 million people in the United States have contracted COVID-19.
Over 815,000 have died.
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