With the COVID-19 infections back on the rise and pandemic now affecting 1 in 500 Americans, we once again reflect on those lost. To truly understand the toll of the pandemic on the country, In America: Remember, a two-week art installation, will cover the mall with white flags as a visual commemoration to those Americans that have succumbed to the virus.
The display will be open to the public from September 17 to October 3 on the National Mall. The 20 acres between The Ellipse and Washington Monument will contain over 660,000 white flags, each representing an American lost to COVID. Visitors will be able to walk through 3.8 miles of paths, reflect, and read the different dedications from loved ones.
“In a traditional sense, this art can be interpreted as a memorial. In scientific terms, it is large-scale data visualization. Experienced in totality, it will be the physical manifestation of empathy,” said Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, the Maryland artist behind the display, in a recent press release. “This exhibit honors all who have died, affecting more than one in three families. In America: Remember, will provide an historic visual, reminding us for years to come that being an American means caring for all Americans. 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.”
This isn’t the first pandemic-related display by Firstenberg. Last fall, a four-acre site by RFK Stadium was covered with 267,080 white flags. When the installation first opened on October 23, 2020, there were only 219,000 flags; that number quickly grew by almost 50,000, outgrowing the exhibit space as America’s death toll continued to rise.
According to the group, In America: Remember will be the largest participatory art installation on the National Mall since the AIDS Memorial Quilt was displayed back in the late 1980s and 1990s.
Those who have lost a loved one during the pandemic can request to have a flag dedicated within the installation. Through September 30, people from around the country can dedicate a flag with a special message that will be handwritten by one of the volunteers and displayed on the mall.
The entire display, and those special messages and dedications, will also be available to view online for those that can’t make it to the district.
(Photo by Lindsay Bonanno)
For more stories like this, subscribe to our Things to Do newsletter.