Why are flags half-staff on Tuesday, April 6? President Joe Biden issued a national half-staff proclamation for the victims of the attack on the United States Capitol. The order lasts through sunset today. In addition to Biden’s national order, a number of states have their own proclamations issued today. Here’s a look at the people who are being honored on Tuesday by lowered flags across the country.
Flags Are Lowered in Respect for the Victims of the U.S. Capitol Attack
Biden issued a national half-staff proclamation on Friday, April 2, which was scheduled to continue through sunset on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.
The proclamation reads:
As a sign of respect for the service and sacrifice of the victims of the attack at the United States Capitol on Friday, April 2, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, April 6, 2021. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this second day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.
Biden also released a statement about the attack on April 2. The statement reads:
Jill and I were heartbroken to learn of the violent attack at a security checkpoint on the U.S. Capitol grounds, which killed Officer William Evans of the U.S. Capitol Police, and left a fellow officer fighting for his life. We send our heartfelt condolences to Officer Evans’ family, and everyone grieving his loss. We know what a difficult time this has been for the Capitol, everyone who works there, and those who protect it.
I have been receiving ongoing briefings from my Homeland Security Advisor, and will be getting further updates as the investigation proceeds.
I want to express the nation’s gratitude to the Capitol Police, the National Guard Immediate Response Force, and others who quickly responded to this attack. As we mourn the loss of yet another courageous Capitol Police officer, I have ordered that the White House flags be lowered to half-staff.
William "Billy" Evans has been identified as the U.S. Capitol Police Officer killed in the car-ramming and knife attack in Washington D.C. today. Evans worked for the USCP for 18 years https://t.co/u2OLCvaHQ9
— Heavy.com (@HeavySan) April 2, 2021
Evans was one of two Capitol Police officers injured in the attack. He died from injuries sustained in the attack. He was a member of the Capitol Division’s First Responder’s Unit.
States Are Also Lowering Their Flags in Honor of Others Who Have Died
The national proclamation is not the only one that is in place today. Some states have their own proclamations to remember those who have died.
In Illinois, Governor JB Pritzker enacted a half-staff proclamation in April 2020 for Illinois residents who have died from COVID-19. This proclamation is in place until April 17, 2021, according to a press release.
The proclamation reads: “The Department of Central Management Services has received notice from Governor JB Pritzker that all person or entities covered by the Illinois Flag Display Act are to fly the flags at half-staff in honor and remembrance of: All Who Have Perished from COVID-19 in the Land of Lincoln. Please immediately lower the United States flags and the State flags at all buildings occupied by your agency’s personnel.”
The Governor’s Executive Mansion has hosted a month-long memorial installation for the more than 23,000 people in the state who have died from COVID-19.
It is with great sadness Acting Superintendent Bruen announces the line of duty death of Trooper Joseph Gallagher. Trooper Gallagher passed on March 26, 2021, three years after he was struck by a vehicle on duty.
He is survived by his wife, two children, parents and siblings. pic.twitter.com/M5jvP3uzPs
— NewYorkStatePolice (@nyspolice) March 27, 2021
In New York, a half-staff order has been in place since March 28 and will last until sunset on April 7, 2021. The order from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo applies to state government buildings in honor of New York State Trooper Joseph Gallagher. Gallagher died from injuries he sustained three years ago when he was helping a motorist while on duty.
In Pennsylvania, a flag order has been in place since April 7, 2020. It is in place for an indefinite period of time and includes commonwealth facilities, public grounds, and public buildings. The order will last until the pandemic is over.
Governor Tom Wolf said when issuing the order:
Already we have lost friends, parents, grandparents, and siblings. We have lost first responders. We have lost community members. Each of these Pennsylvanians is irreplaceable. Each deserves to be honored individually for their contributions to our commonwealth, but this cruel disease will not give us a respite to mourn. This virus prevents us from honoring the dead at traditional gatherings. We cannot have funerals, wakes, or sit shiva. I hope this flag lowering provides some solace to the grieving families and friends. And, I hope it serves as a reminder of the reason for the sacrifices Pennsylvanians are making to help their community survive this crisis.
It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that DPS announces the passing of Trooper Chad Walker. Trooper Walker is a hero who bravely served his community. He died following injuries sustained while on patrol. pic.twitter.com/XO9Wp4i9Tk
— Texas DPS (@TxDPS) March 31, 2021
In Texas, all U.S. and state flags at DPS facilities are half-staff in honor of Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Chad Walker. Walker was killed in the line of duty when he was helping a stranded driver. The order lasts until sunset on the day of his funeral service.
Flag Half-Staff Traditions
It’s customary to only display the American flag from sunrise to sunset unless the flag is well illuminated overnight. In those cases, the flag might be displayed 24 hours a day. A number of holidays call for U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff every year. In addition, the president of the United States may order a proclamation for the flags to fly half-staff when someone of prominence dies or when there is a national tragedy. State governors may also call for national flags to be flown at half-staff in their state when a present or former government official dies.
If you’re wondering about the terms half-mast versus half-staff, in the United States half-mast refers to flags being lowered on a ship, while half-staff refers to a pole on the ground or a building, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s blog The Sextant. However, outside the United States, the more commonly used term is actually half-mast, according to The Sextant. The terms tend to be used interchangeably in common vernacular.