‘The immensity of our loss': 650,000 white flags show American lives lost to Covid

Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

A sea of more than 650,000 white flags is lining the National Mall near the Washington monument in the nation’s capitol to represent the American lives lost so far to Covid-19.

The outdoor art installation titled, In America: Remember, by social practice artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, is scheduled to stand for 17 days from Friday in the shadow of the White House.

“When the numbers get so large, it becomes difficult to really understand them. So, I, as a visual artist, wanted to make the number physical,” the 62-year old artist told ABC News. “I wanted to physically manifest it.”

Related: One in 500 Americans have died of Covid – and some hospitals reach capacity

The white flags will serve as a canvas for family and friends to feature messages remembering the lives of their loved ones.

“So many of these deaths happened in isolation without acknowledgment,” Firstenberg told NPR.

“Once you take one flag and think about all the grief that is embodied by that flag … that’s the power of this art: understanding the immensity of our loss,” Firstenberg explained.

The new exhibit mimics Firstenberg’s last exhibit in October 2020 with the installation of 240,000 flags in the fields near the RFK stadium in Washington DC. Less than a year later, the DC-based artist had to order more than 400,000 more flags to account for the growing number of Covid-19 deaths. Flags will be added daily throughout the course of the exhibit as the death toll increases.

On Friday, the opening day of the installation, more than 670,000 people had died from Covid-19 in the US since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University.

New data shows that one in 500 people living in the US has died from Covid-19 since the pandemic started as the virus continues to ravage the country. The number of new cases has spiked since the Delta variant hit the US.

The 20-acre installation will be on display from 17 September to 3 October.

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