COVID memorial removed too soon


For those who couldn’t visit the COVID-19 memorial on the National Mall in Washington, the second best view was provided by National Geographic magazine.

Photographer Stephen Wilkes perched on an aerial platform 45 feet above a sea of ​​white flags that together looked like a blanket of snow. For 30 hours on 20 acres on the north side of the Washington Monument. He positioned the lifting platform with the National Museum of African American History and Culture to the left of the frame, as so many people of color have been disproportionately caught in the throes of the virus.

A total of 700,000 white flags were placed to remember the number of Americans who had died at that time from COVID-19.

On the last day of the memorial exhibit (October 3), Elizabeth Castro from Lorton, Va. Said, “It is a rewarding experience. This gives new meaning to the pandemic. Very solemn. Notice how quiet it is here.

Castro is from Texas. She left Japan for Virginia last year with her husband from the Marine Corps, who now works at the Pentagon. “It was difficult,” Castro recalls, “to move during a pandemic”.

She said she knew 10 people who had died from the coronavirus. It was harder.

That’s why she recorded a video at the mall, saying, “It’s a feeling similar to visiting Arlington National Cemetery.”

But there is a lingering thought in his mind. Why only 17 days, from September 17 to October 3, to allow people to walk around the mall’s labyrinth of white flags, some of which had inscriptions that said “if only you would have listened” or “I wish you would was vaccinated ”?

That’s a good question: why not longer, like Thanksgiving or the end of the year. Let as many people see it as possible, like die-hard anti-vaccines like Golden State Warriors NBA player Andrew Wiggins.

Wiggins eventually conceded and got the shot, noting that he felt “forced” and that “the only options were to get the shot or not to play in the NBA.”

And miss that huge salary?

Wiggins’ move comes after the league recently denied his request for a religious exemption. Warriors players must now show proof of vaccination before entering the Chase Center, unless there is an approved medical or religious exemption.

Oh, that bogus medical exemption.

Wiggins said, “I feel like I could go on for days about why I didn’t want to get it. More importantly, I don’t know what’s going to happen or what it’s going to do to my body in 10, 20 years. … But I guess this is something that had to be done.

As Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn said on the eponymous Michael Smerconish show on CNN: If their children already have a measles vaccine, that alone should prevent a dodging of religious status.

Wiggins has had his shot – and keeps his annual salary of $ 31 million.

Meanwhile, on October 11, 1987, a team of 48 volunteers carefully unfolded 1,920 panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the largest previous art exhibit on the mall.

Suzanne Firstenberg, an acclaimed artist, is known for her colorful hats. She is also known for the design of the mall display. She has added 40,000 white flags since day one, September 17, a number she did not expect to achieve. But unfortunately she did.

The more than 150 white flag sections featured three miles of walkways, with much of the grass trampled on. There were about 75 rows of flags, with about 55 flags in each row per section.

“The flags brought compassion, comfort,” Firstenberg said in his closing address on the mall as dusk approached on October 3. “Some people have told me that the flags give them peace. We can’t keep passing. We have to stop and learn the stories.

Firstenberg said each flag will be carefully collected by his volunteers, documented and moved to his studio.

A message on a flag appeared to have been written by a young black girl. A photo of her, posing happily with her smiling father, was attached to the metal rod.

He said, “Together again at DC Dad. I want you to know that I’m doing my best. But you said it looked good on you. Be nice daddy!

It was in section 77 of this sprawling COVID-19 memorial on the National Mall.

Gregory Clay is a Washington columnist and former assistant sports editor for McClatchy-Tribune News Service. He wrote this for

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