Over 600,000 white flags line the park in front of the Washington Monument for the “In America: Remember” exhibit. Photo courtesy of Jeffery Rollins.
Jamie Blodgett | Contributing Writer
The “In America: Remember” Memorial in Washington D.C. opened on Sept. 19 to commemorate the lives lost from COVID-19 in the United States.
In the shadow of the Washington Monument lies 20 acres of national park land. The memorial features a white flag placed for each life lost, some of which have been personalized by family members in remembrance of a loved one. The memorial consisted of 673,484 flags when it opened. The National Geographic noted that the memorial served “as a harrowing reminder of a sheer scale of devastation.”
The memorial was designed by Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg. She called it a “physical manifestation of empathy” in a statement.
“I needed to make sure that this art was accessible to every single person who lost someone… once you take one flag and think about all the grief that is embodied by that flag, then you lift your gaze,” Firstenberg said. “That’s the power of this art – understanding the immensity of our loss… the flags are meant to mimic the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery.”
Brennan Firstenberg will be planting flags until Oct. 3 in accordance with the number of lives lost at the hand of the pandemic.
Last fall, Firstenberg took to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington D.C. to plant more than 267,080 flags. Now, the National Mall will be the home to the newest installment of the Memorial, making it the largest exhibition on the mall since 1987. The “AIDs Quilt” exhibit from that year memorialized the over 100,000 people killed by the HIV/AIDs epidemic of the 1980s.
Sabila Khan, co-founder of COVID-19 Loss Support for Family & Friends, fears that the over half a million people who died from COVID-19 will be forgotten as the world tries to distance itself from the pandemic.
“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,” Khan said.
Khan called the memorial a “clarion call” to make sure that they are remembered.
“‘In America: Remember’ will provide a historic visual, reminding us for years to come that being an American means caring for all Americans,” Firstenberg said. “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.”
Flags can be virtually dedicated to loved ones who have died from COVID-19 on the memorial’s website.