Why Are Flags Half-Staff Today? See Proclamations for May 29-30

Half-Staff Flags

Getty Why are flags half-staff today?

Why are flags half-staff this weekend on Saturday, May 29, through Sunday, May 30? Flags are half-staff this weekend after President Joe Biden issued a national half-staff proclamation following the May 26, 2021, shooting in San Jose, California. In addition to Biden’s national order, a number of states have their own proclamations in place. Here’s a look at the people who are being honored across the country with lowered flags:

Flags Are at Half-Staff in Memory of the Victims of the San Jose Shooting

Flags are at half-staff through sunset on Sunday, May 30, in memory of the victims of the shooting in San Jose on the morning of May 26. The shooting happened at the San Jose VTA light rail yard during a union meeting. A police spokesman said there were “eight victims who were pronounced deceased at this point and there was one suspect,” who is deceased.

Biden said in his half-staff proclamation:

As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on May 26, 2021, in San Jose, California, 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, May 30, 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-sixth day of May, 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.

States Have Also Lowered Their Flags in Honor of Others Who Have Died

Some states have issued their own proclamations to remember those who have died.

In Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear ordered that flags be lowered to half-staff on state buildings on Saturday, May 29, in memory of Navy Seaman 2nd Class Howard S. Magers. He died in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, but his remains were just identified in December. Individuals, businesses, and organizations are also invited to lower their flags.

In New York, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called for state buildings to fly their flags at half-staff on Sunday, May 30, to honor all essential workers who lost their lives to COVID-19. State landmarks will also be lighted red, white, and blue.

In Pennsylvaniaa 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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