JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – Three hundred and eighty people had died in the region due to COVID-19 complications when the Marat Moore’s makeshift flag memorial began.
On Friday, the flags were taken up after two years and ten days at the Northeast Tennessee COVID-19 Memorial. The 640 days of maintenance had become difficult as the flags endured the elements and COVID-related deaths accumulated.
“I wanted to give real presence to those who had died,” Moore said. “All I kept hearing were numbers, and I knew that numbers never capture a human life, the family, the friends. And so I decided to do them of many colors because everyone is vibrant in their own way.”
At its largest, the memorial on Spring Road contained 2,100 flags representing the local COVID-19 deaths.
“Today, we’re taking them down. Not because COVID is over, but because it is the end of the year,” Moore said. “And these flags have been through snow and rain and 60-mile-an-hour winds, and so we’re going to be taking them up with a blessing – a silent blessing.”
Families of the deceased could choose what color represented their loved ones – with one exception. White flags were used to represent nurses, healthcare workers and those who cared for other COVID patients.
“So they were all planted with prayer and dedication, and the white flags in the distance here represent health care teams who tried to save everyone’s life,” Moore said. “This is apparently the largest and longest-lasting memorial of its type in the state, which is sadly fitting because the numbers and the rate of death was high in our region, very high related to the national average and the rate in the state.”
Some of those flags will be donated back to the families of the deceased, and others will go to museums and organizations. The white flags will be donated back to area healthcare organizations.
Moore asked people to contact their local governments and art committees about establishing permanent memorials in place of her makeshift one.