Why Are Flags Half-Staff Today? See Proclamations for April 7

flag half staff


Why are flags half-staff on Wednesday, April 7? Although flags have been half-staff nationally since late last week, today’s half-staff notice is for a different purpose. President Joe Biden issued a national half-staff proclamation through April 7 in memory of U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings. The order lasts through sunset today. In addition to Biden’s national order, a number of states have their own proclamations for today. Here’s a look at the people who are being honored across the country.

Flags Are at Half-Staff in Remembrance of U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings

The American Legion and FlagsExpress reported that  Biden has ordered all U.S. flags to remain at half-staff through sunset on April 7 in honor of Congressman Alcee Hastings, who died April 6.

Hastings died at the age of 84 during his 15th term in Congress, NBC News reported. In 2019, he shared that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was undergoing treatment. He represented Florida’s 20th Congressional District.

Biden said in a statement about Hastings’ death:

I had the privilege of getting to know Alcee Hastings during the years when he served in the House of Representatives and I served in the United States Senate and later as Vice President. I greatly admired him for his singular sense of humor, and for always speaking the truth bluntly and without reservation. A trailblazing lawyer who grew up in the Jim Crow South, Alcee was outspoken because he was passionate about helping our nation live up to its full promise for all Americans. It was a passion he forged as a pioneering civil rights lawyer in the 1960s, fighting tirelessly to desegregate hotels, restaurants, and public spaces in south Florida — a trailblazing spirit to advocate for what is right that guided him throughout his life.

Across his long career of public service, Alcee always stood up to fight for equality, and always showed up for the working people he represented. And even in his final battle with cancer, he simply never gave up.

Jill and I are saddened to learn of his passing. May God bless Alcee Hastings and his family.

This half-staff notice comes after the conclusion of a prior national half-staff notice that ran from April 2-6, 2021. This notice was issued in memory of the victims of the attack on the U.S. State Capitol on April 2. William “Billy” Evans was killed at the attack on the north barricade and another officer was injured. He was a member of the first responders unit, and he was killed after the suspect rammed his car into two officers when hitting the north barricade. Officers engaged the suspect when he then exited his vehicle with a knife in his hand. The suspect was shot and also died.

States Are Also Lowering Their Flags in Honor of Others Who Have Died

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.”

In New York, a half-staff order has been in place for state government buildings since March 28 and will last until sunset today. The order from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo honors New York State Trooper Joseph Gallagher. Gallagher died from injuries he sustained three years ago when he was helping a motorist while on duty. His body was escorted from Long Island to his Buffalo home and his funeral service is today, My Twin Tiers reported. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

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.

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.

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