Old Greenwich church revives display of white flags to mourn lives lost to COVID-19 in CT

A church in Old Greenwich has brought back a powerful visual about the human cost of COVID-19.

News 12 Staff

Mar 30, 2021, 9:18 PM

Updated 1,116 days ago


A church in Old Greenwich has brought back a powerful visual about the human cost of COVID-19.
"There's an excitement for turning a corner and putting the pandemic behind us, but I think that for that actually to have meaning - for that to have purpose - we have to grieve together as a community," says Patrick Collins, a senior pastor at the First Congregational Church.
That grief is visible in a sea of small white flags outside the church, with each flag standing for a single person in our state killed by COVID-19.
Collins first put up the growing memorial to Connecticut's victims last spring.
Collins added to it daily, placing about 4,400 flags before stopping last June. He's now resurrected the idea for Holy Week and is having the community join in.
"As I did it last year, it was so moving and so impactful to put those in the ground to remember the folks. I just wanted to share that - share that message and share that feeling with other people in the community," he says.
The state says almost 7,900 lives have been ended by the ongoing pandemic. As the display gets closer to honoring each one, some flags are personalized.
"I'm remembering a dear friend who I lost last April, almost a year ago, so I'm really here for her this morning," says Pat Mendelsohn, a church member.
Mendelsohn placed her friend's flag on the corner, saying "Miss Mary" always liked to see what was going on in town.
"There were no memorials," she says. "So I think planting this flag has given me a sense of peace that I really was looking for."
For others out on the lawn, the loss is more recent.
"I placed a flag because my friend passed away on Saturday actually," says the church's preschool director, Jennifer DiCarlo.
The flag for Carolyn Tarpey is just outside DiCarlo's office window at the church.
DiCarlo says the rows of white flags put the staggering statistics into perspective - a reminder that every flag has a story - be it one of a parent, child or sibling.
"It's hard to imagine that amount of loss in one year. But putting 8,000 flags out - it's a stark visual, it really is," says Collins.
The church plans to keep adding flags through the week.
Anyone can join in and put down a flag; you don't have to be a member of the congregation. The visual display will be taken down after Easter.

More from News 12