Around 228,000 flags now flutter in memory of the lives lost to Covid at Washington artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s installation “In America How Could This Happen…” and between now and the end of the project next week, the evolving memorial needs visitors to plant thousands more pennants to match the ever-rising death toll.
So far, visitors have added around 63,000 flags to the original 165,000, but as the number of deaths continues to increase, so does the number of flags needed in the installation. As of today, there have been 229,293 Covid deaths the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins’ Covid tracker (the counter Firstenberg is referencing). That means the installation needs about 1,293 more flags to be planted just to keep up with today’s deaths.
Visitors can add flags to the memorial until the installation comes down on November 6. Pick up a flag at the entrance tent located in RFK parking lot #3 starting at 11 AM on Monday through Friday and 9 AM on weekends. The public art technically closes at sunset, but Firstenberg says members of the community still visit the memorial at night to ensure none of the tributes have fallen. There is no limit on the number of flags that visitors may plant. Firstenberg says that earlier today an ER doctor placed ten flags dedicated to patients he cared for in the last moments of their life.
The simple act of planting flags is proving to be an emotional experience for many people. “Strangers are talking with strangers, comparing their stories, talking about what they’ve lost,” says Firstenberg. “If people haven’t lost loved ones, they’ve lost jobs, they’ve lost educational opportunities. This is the greatest tragedy we likely will have in our lifetimes.”
In America How Could This Happen. 1900E East Capitol St., NE. Open Monday to Friday from 11 AM to sunset; Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to sunset.