A Nation Grieves: COVID-19 Memorial Flags

The National Mall in Washington, D.C., has long been a place of monumental memorialization, from permanent fixtures such as the Washington Monument and the Vietnam War Memorial to temporary collaborative installations like the AIDS Memorial Quilt. “In America: Remember,” by Washington, D.C., artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, helps us visualize the scale of loss due to COVID-19: each flag placed on the National Mall represents a life lost. The installation invites people to memorialize loved ones who have died of COVID-19 by writing messages on the small white landscaper flags. It also creates a space for the public to walk through rows of flags, in private contemplation and in public remembrance. 

Coping with death is often a public process. Funeral processions, rituals in worship, and burials in cemeteries are ways that deaths of individuals are honored. In the face of larger-scale tragedies, people in the United States still look to public memorialization. Items left at memorial walls, roadside crosses, and spontaneous shrines are all examples of grieving private loss in the public sphere. Amidst our current national grieving, the museum is working to document the pandemic through objects and stories, which will preserve this moment for future generations to understand. 

[photo: Memorial flags, 2020]

Nearly 700,000 flags dot the National Mall, paying somber tribute to the lives lost to COVID-19 in the United States. The flags in this display case are from Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s installation on the same topic last fall, “In America How Could This Happen…” Then, she needed far fewer flags, around 270,000, to mark the deaths.  

 

Docent guide sheet for "In AMERICA How Could This Happen..."As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandem
Description (Brief)
Docent guide sheet for "In AMERICA How Could This Happen..."
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.27
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.27
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. neon pink tag attached to metal pole (93 32)Obverse Text: Ricki L.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. neon pink tag attached to metal pole (93 32)
Obverse Text: Ricki L. Leonard / 8-13-53 to 10-7-20 / One star in a sea of Lost Loved Ones...
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country..
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.19
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.19
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. neon pink tag attached to metal pole (P2-36)Obverse Text: funny man / Kenneth Bridwell / Loving grandpa & dad / generous soulReverse Text: Sept.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. neon pink tag attached to metal pole (P2-36)
Obverse Text: funny man / Kenneth Bridwell / Loving grandpa & dad / generous soul
Reverse Text: Sept. 14, 1946 - Aug.4 2020 / Greenville, SC
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.09
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.09
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. neon pink tag attached to metal pole (P2-37)Obverse Text: cherished friend / favorite teacher / Terry Bridwell / Beloved mom & Grandma / We love and miss you!Reverse Text: Nov.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. neon pink tag attached to metal pole (P2-37)
Obverse Text: cherished friend / favorite teacher / Terry Bridwell / Beloved mom & Grandma / We love and miss you!
Reverse Text: Nov. 1, 1946 - July 30, 2020 / Greenville, SC
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.10
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.10
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. neon pink tag attached to metal pole (M9 S 1)Obverse Text: We miss you Chad
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. neon pink tag attached to metal pole (M9 S 1)
Obverse Text: We miss you Chad <3 (heart) Sara + Warren / Chad - I love you so very much. Forever Anne your wife / I Love you bro - NIL - ANAIE
Reverse Text: Chad Capule / 7/26/70 - 3/29/20 / Beloved husband, son, brother, friend, colleague/ We miss you
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.13
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.13
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. orange tag attached to metal pole (P5-36)Obverse Text: Jay Kauphusman / 11/18/1949 - 11/1/2020 / You are loved.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. orange tag attached to metal pole (P5-36)
Obverse Text: Jay Kauphusman / 11/18/1949 - 11/1/2020 / You are loved. Thank you for hanging in there one more day so we could celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.15
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.15
White flag with metal pole.As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole.
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.23
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.23
White flag with metal pole and writing in black marker.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in black marker. neon pink tag attached to metal pole (P2-69)
Obverse Text: ROMEO AGTARAP, RN / ER NURSE / NY PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.08
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.08
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. pink tag attached to metal pole (P6 8)
Obverse Text: William (Dada Bill) Tyler / died of COVID Saturday, April 25, 2020
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.18
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.18
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. neon pink tag attached to metal pole (92- 74)
Obverse Text: ETHEL MAE WASHINGTON
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.20
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.20
White plastic flag with metal pole from the "In America: How could this happen..." installation (11/2020). The flag is personalized, "Dr.
Description (Brief)
White plastic flag with metal pole from the "In America: How could this happen..." installation (11/2020). The flag is personalized, "Dr. Choong Hong Kim / 7/29/2020 / We miss you!"
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.01
catalog number
2021.0014.01
accession number
2021.0014
A rose left by a visitor to "IN AMERICA How Could This Happen..."As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus p
Description (Brief)
A rose left by a visitor to "IN AMERICA How Could This Happen..."
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.30
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.30
White flag with metal pole and writing in black marker.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in black marker. neon pink tag attached to metal pole (C5-9)
Obverse Text: Antioco Martinez-Ruiz / 10/15/1958 - 4/3/2020
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.06
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.06
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. orange tag attached to metal pole (P6 7)
Obverse Text: Linda Belton (Cross symbol) RIP
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.17
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.17
one (1) badgeWashington, D.C., 2020Description: red and white pin on badgeObverse Text: In America How could this happen...
Description (Brief)
one (1) badge
Washington, D.C., 2020
Description: red and white pin on badge
Obverse Text: In America How could this happen... / volunteer
Volunteer badge from the installation "IN AMERICA How Could This Happen...," created by artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg to commemorate the lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the installation in October, 2020 the death toll stood at 223,059.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.25
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.25
one (1) postcardWashington, D.C., 2020Description: image of white flags planted in grassPostcard of the installation "IN AMERICA How Could This Happen...," created by artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg to commemorate the lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.Obverse Text: Open
Description (Brief)
one (1) postcard
Washington, D.C., 2020
Description: image of white flags planted in grass
Postcard of the installation "IN AMERICA How Could This Happen...," created by artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg to commemorate the lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Obverse Text: Open through November 30th
Reverse Text: In America How could this happen.../ In America is a public art installation in Washington, DC to honor every American life lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg brings us this participative exhibition to visually represent the ever-increasing U.S. death toll and to create a place where people unite in shared loss.
Visitors can personalize flags with the names of loved ones lost to this coronavirus.
Flags are available weekdays 11am - sunset and weekends 9am - sunset.
Metro stop: Stadium-Armory
Google Maps: RFK Parking Lot #3
Parking: RFK Lot #3
@InAmericaFlags
www.SuzanneFirstenberg.com
info@SuzanneFirstenberg.com
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.created by artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg to commemorate the lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the installation in October, 2020 the death toll stood at 223,059.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.26
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.26
White flag with metal pole and writing in black marker. blue tag attached to metal pole (C4 1)Obverse Text: Honoring all the FILIPINO-AMERICAN NURSES, DOCTORS & Health workers.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in black marker. blue tag attached to metal pole (C4 1)
Obverse Text: Honoring all the FILIPINO-AMERICAN NURSES, DOCTORS & Health workers. <3 (heart) / Nov. 2020
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.03
catalog number
2021.0014.03
accession number
2021.0014
Frequently Asked Questions sheet for "In AMERICA How Could This Happen..."As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Coron
Description (Brief)
Frequently Asked Questions sheet for "In AMERICA How Could This Happen..."
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.29
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.29
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. blue tag attached to metal pole (CIO 2)
Obverse Text: Rest In Peace Uncle Louie / WWII Veteran / Luigi Pellieano / Battle of the Bulge / Battle of Bastogne / 24 OCT 2020
Reverse Text: Rest In Peace Uncle Louie / WWII Veteran / Luigi Pellieano / Battle of the Bulge / Battle of Bastogne / 24 OCT 2020
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.14
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.14
White flag with metal pole and writing in black marker.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in black marker. blue tag attached to metal pole (C6 6)
Obverse Text: Maria Del Consuelo Lopez / 4/2/1958 - 7/11/2020 / Tu eres nuestro corazón, nunca te olvidaremos
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.07
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.07
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. green tag attached to metal pole (P1 16)
Obverse Text: Bishop Eugene Germain
Reverse Text: PASTOR GERMAIN / 1ST HAITIAN CHURCH OF GOD / MIAMI, FL
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.11
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.11
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker.
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. orange tag attached to metal pole (p4-11)
Obverse Text:Kevin B Taylor / I love you daddy / 8/17/2020
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.21
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.21
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. pink tag attached to metal pole (P5-139)Obverse Text: Geary Evans
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in marker. pink tag attached to metal pole (P5-139)
Obverse Text: Geary Evans <3 (heart) / con mucho cariño y que descanses en paz.
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.16
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.16
White flag with metal pole and writing in black marker. blue tag attached to metal pole (C4-21)Obverse Text: Everyone
Description (Brief)
White flag with metal pole and writing in black marker. blue tag attached to metal pole (C4-21)
Obverse Text: Everyone <3 (heart)
As COVID-19 deaths spiked in 2020, Suzanne Firstenberg’s public art installation "In America: How could this happen…" memorialized the number of people in the United States who lost their lives to the Corona virus pandemic as of November of 2020. The work (taking up 4 acres of the Washington, DC Armory grounds) represented the magnitude of the loss and also humanized the individual experience. At the time, more than 250,000 people were represented through individual white flags, that together provided a visualization of the pandemic sweeping across the country.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
2020
ID Number
2021.0014.05
accession number
2021.0014
catalog number
2021.0014.05

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