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Dingell, Upton Honor Fellow Americans at National COVID Memorial

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, in a bipartisan display of respect and remembrance, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph visited the National COVID Memorial titled “In America: Remember” and planted small white flags with heartfelt messages in honor of Michiganders who have lost their lives to COVID-19. 670,000 flags – each one representing the tragic death of a fellow American – currently surround the Washington Monument in a stunning visual depiction of the enormous toll this devastating pandemic has had on countless families and our entire nation.

“Today was an incredible and overwhelming experience. Walking through a sea of flags stretching as far as the eye can see, there was a lot of emotion as we saw the reality of how many lives have been taken by this virus,” said Dingell and Upton. “We mourn with families across Michigan and our nation who have lost loved ones and experienced the terrible pain firsthand, and we commit to ending this deadly virus once and for all.”

Dingell planted flags in memory of several influential 12th District individuals, including Dearborn Heights Mayor Dan Paletko, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napolean, and Rev. Victoria James of Yspilanti. Upton planted a flag in honor of Bud Baker, the most decorated veteran in Berrien County, who was the first person to die from COVID in the county.

Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg is the artist and mastermind behind “In America: Remember.” Upton and Dingell had the opportunity to speak with her about this emotional, yet critically important project and gain a better understanding of her work. Her art is informed by prior work in pharmaceutical new product development, as a legislative aid in the U.S. Senate, and through 25 years of hospice volunteering.

“In a traditional sense, this art can be interpreted as a memorial. In scientific terms, it is large scale data visualization. Experienced in totality, it will be the physical manifestation of empathy,” said Brennan Firstenberg. “This exhibit honors all who have died, affecting more than one in three families. In America: Remember, will provide an historic visual, reminding us for years to come that being an American means caring for all Americans. We cannot let this ever happen again. Our strength comes from the degree to which we stand side-by-side in the face of the challenges that lie ahead.”

According to the Harvard University COVID-19 dashboard, over 22,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Michigan, with roughly 1,246 deaths in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District and 1,561 deaths in Michigan’s 12th Congressional District.

Both Upton and Dingell have committed to returning to the memorial next week to personally handwrite messages and plant flags at the request of their constituents back in Michigan. Please reach out to the Upton’s office at 202-225-3761 or Dingell’s office at 202-225-4071 if you would like the Representatives to plant a flag in honor of a loved one.

If you would like to electronically dedicate a flag in honor of a loved one, you can do so HERE until September 30th, 2021. You will then be able to view your flag and message and locate it on the project’s website HERE.

The memorial will be open to the public until October 3rd, 2021.


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