Human Interest Over 600,000 White Flags Have Been Placed on National Mall in Moving Tribute to COVID Victims "I just felt as though someone had to do something to make a statement that with all these people dying, we had to value each of these lives as well," said artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg By Maria Pasquini Maria Pasquini Associate Editor, Human Interest - PEOPLE People Editorial Guidelines Published on September 17, 2021 11:54 AM Share Tweet Pin Email In America: Remember. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty A powerful new art installation is commemorating the staggering number of people who have died from COVID-19 in the United States. As of Friday, at least 670,034 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. To symbolize the loss, over 600,000 flags have been placed on the National Mall for artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's In America: Remember. In addition to providing a visual representation of the lives lost to the virus, the flags will also hold personalized messages from loved ones — which can be left in person or online through a website for the installation. "So many of these deaths happened in isolation without acknowledgment,"Firstenberg, 62, told NPR. "When I had an opportunity to bring it to the National Mall, even though it's an immensely greater task, there was no hesitation. I knew I needed to do it." In America: Remember. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Family of Vaccinated Mom Says She Died of COVID Because Others 'Chose Not to Be' Firstenberg, who previously created a smaller version of the installation last year near RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., told NPR that she first got the idea after listening to comments Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made last March. During an interview at the time, he argued that some Americans should risk going to work in order to prevent an economic slowdown, which he believed outweighed the health risks of the pandemic. "That really disturbed me," Firstenberg told NPR. "I just felt as though someone had to do something to make a statement that with all these people dying, we had to value each of these lives as well." In America: Remember. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Before the exhibit officially opened to the public on Thursday, one family member reflected on how moving it was to see their father being honored. "One of those flags represents my father who died from #Covid 11 months ago. I wasn't expecting to be so emotional seeing this but here I am, in tears," read a social media post shared on the National Mall's account. "Please, never, ever forget them." In America: Remember will be on display from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3. As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.