White flags on National Mall to mark hundreds of thousands of lives lost to COVID-19
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Hundreds of thousands of white flags will be placed on the National Mall to honor the lives lost to the coronavirus in the U.S.

The project was announced Thursday by artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg and is set to take place for three weeks starting in September. 

The project, called “In America: Remember,” will include 1-foot tall flags compacted into 60-foot-by-60-foot quadrants by the Washington Monument. 

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“When a nation is in the midst of trauma — and this is truly a large-scale, slow-motion, mass-casualty event — it’s hard to really conceptualize it,” Firstenberg said, The Washington Post reported. “That was one of the things I wanted to do. The other thing was to acknowledge each death. So many of these deaths were happening in private, behind closed doors without public acknowledgment.”

The installation will begin on Sept. 17 and will allow messages to be written on the flags by those volunteering. Volunteers can write their own messages and will be writing submissions from those online.

Software developed by Esri is being used for the online submissions for the flags. The online submission process was to include everyone in the project, even those who didn’t lose a loved one during the pandemic.

“For example, I personally have been dealing with covid … [but have] not lost anybody close to me from covid,” Estella Geraghty, Esri’s chief medical officer, said.

“So I might feel distanced from this project and just observe it like you do with many memorials in D.C. But people will have the opportunity to work with these index cards that we’ll print off from the submissions on the website. I could go to the installation and … transcribe somebody else’s note onto a flag for them so I can feel part of the whole process,” she added.

The 61-year-old artist did a similar project in the fall outside RFK Stadium by putting up white flags of those who lost their lives from the coronavirus. There were 267,080 needed at that time, according to The Washington Post. 

“I was so disturbed,” Firstenburg said. “I knew as a visual artist that I had to create art that would help people understand the magnitude of this loss. So I arrived at the idea of planting flags. A flag will ripple in the wind and interact with the environment. And the mass of them would really look like what it really was at that time: a flag of surrender.”