Why Are Flags Half-Staff Today? See Proclamations for March 27

Half-Staff Flags

Getty Why are flags half-staff today?

Why are flags half-staff on Saturday, March 27? President Joe Biden issued a new national half-staff proclamation for the people who were killed in the King Soopers shooting in Boulder, Colorado. This order lasts through March 27. In addition, a number of states have their own proclamations issued. Here’s a look at the people who are being honored on Saturday by lowered flags across the country.


Flags Are Lowered in Memory of People Killed in Boulder

Biden issued a national half-staff proclamation on Tuesday, March 23, which was scheduled to continue through sunset on Saturday, March 27.

The proclamation reads:

As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on March 22, 2021, in Boulder, Colorado, 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, March 27, 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 twenty-third day of March, 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.


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

The national half-staff proclamation is not the only proclamation that is in place this week. Some states have their own proclamations in place to remember those who have died.

In Colorado, a half-staff alert is in place for March 27. Governor Jared Polis ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on all public buildings in memory of Nucla Naturita Fire Protection District Chief Chester Riley. Riley had a heart attack while responding to a motor vehicle crash and died in the line of duty. He was 56 and left behind his wife, son, father and two brothers.

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 still in place today and applies to flags on all public buildings and grounds.

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.”

Flags in Illinois will be returned to full staff on April 17, according to a press release. This will follow a month-long memorial installation at the Governor’s Executive Mansion commemorating the more than 23,000 people in the state who have died from COVID-19. The press release notes: “The installation includes 102 wings representing Illinois’ 102 counties that together hold more than 5,500 ribbons, each representing approximately four Illinoisans who tragically lost their life to this virus. The ribbons are illuminated by glowing spheres.”

In Pennsylvania, a flag order has been in place since April 7, 2020. All commonwealth flags on commonwealth facilities, grounds and public buildings are at half-staff to honor those who have died from the pandemic.

Governor Tom Wolf said when issuing the order: “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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