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Friday, October 22, 2021

Hundreds of thousands of white flags planted in D.C. to commemorate those who died of COVID-19

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WASHINGTON — In the shadow of the White House, hundreds of thousands of white flags fill 80,000 square metres of the National Mall. Each one represents an American life lost to COVID-19.

Planted beneath the Washington Monument, the rows of flags in the art installation will remain until Oct. 3., serving as a memorial for the more than 675,000 U.S. lives lost due to COVID-19.

For many, it’s become a place to mourn and remember loved ones who succumbed to the disease.

Among them, bride-to-be Korina Castellanes, whose mom died of COVID-19 last year.

“We’re actually getting married in December, so she’s on my mind a lot more recently,” she told CTV National News, “the fact that she won’t be here.”

Some visitors have chosen to scrawl personal messages onto flags.

“It all helps a person know there was a human being behind that flag,” Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, the artist behind the installation, told CTV National News.

It can be difficult to visualize the number of people who have died from COVID-19. The field of flags is meant to offer perspective, according to Firstenberg.

“9/11 happened in a moment, and we were all horrified,” she said. “This is a slow-motion tragedy. It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to lose sight of. It’s easy to not let these deaths matter.”

But it matters to friends of Alberto Morrison, a veteran who survived deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq only to be killed at home by the disease.

“You just feel so helpless,” Kris Kramarich, a friend of Morrison, told CTV National News. “So this just helps the connection and helps honouring him and his family.”

As the number of deaths connected to COVID-19 continues to rise in the U.S., about 2,000 per day, so too does the number of flags planted.

“I ordered more flags again five days ago and I still don’t know if I’m going to have enough,” Firstenberg said. “I would like to stop planting flags.”

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