Why are flags half-staff on Saturday, April 17? Flags are half-staff this weekend after President Joe Biden issued a national half-staff proclamation in memory of the victims of the Indianapolis FedEx shooting . 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 this weekend with lowered flags.
Flags Are at Half-Staff in Memory of the People Killed in the FedEx Shooting
Biden issued a national half-staff proclamation in memory of the victims of the FedEx shooting in Indianapolis on Thursday, April 15. Eight people were pronounced dead at the scene and the shooter was also dead. Others were transported to local hospitals. Flags will remain half-staff through sunset on April 20, 2021.
Biden’s proclamation reads:
As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on April 15, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana, 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 20, 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 sixteenth 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.
He also issued a statement following the shooting. It reads:
Vice President Harris and I have been briefed by our homeland security team on the mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, where a lone gunman murdered eight people and wounded several more in the dark of night.
Today’s briefing is just the latest in a string of tragedies, following closely after gunmen firing bullets in broad day light at spas in and around Atlanta, Georgia, a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, a home in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and so many other shootings.
While we await critical details about the shooting, its motivation, and other key information, once again, I have the solemn duty of ordering the flag lowered at half-staff at the White House, public buildings and grounds, and military posts and embassies, just two weeks after I gave the last such order.
It’s a mass shooting just a week after we met, in the Rose Garden, with families who lost children and dear friends as bullets pierced their bodies and souls in schools, a night club, in a car at a gas station, and a town meeting at a grocery store. And it came just the night before 14th anniversary of the shooting at Virginia Tech, in which a gunman murdered 32 people.
Last night and into the morning in Indianapolis, yet again families had to wait to hear word about the fate of their loved ones. What a cruel wait and fate that has become too normal and happens every day somewhere in our nation.
Gun violence is an epidemic in America. But we should not accept it. We must act.
Last week, I called on the Justice Department to better protect Americans from gun violence. I also urged Congress to hear the call of the American people – including the vast majority of gun owners – to enact commonsense gun violence prevention legislation, like universal background checks and a ban of weapons of war and high-capacity magazines.
Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation.
We can, and must, do more to act and to save lives.
God bless the eight fellow Americans we lost in Indianapolis and their loved ones, and we pray for the wounded for their recovery.
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 Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey allowed a half-staff proclamation for U.S. and Alabama flags in Autauga County on April 17 in honor of former Commissioner and Prattville City Councilor Sidney Thompson, who died on April 13.
The statement to Chairman Jay Thompson reads:
I hereby authorize you to order flags be flown at half-staff in Autauga County to honor former Commissioner and Prattville City Councilor Sidney Thompson, who passed away on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, for her dedicated leadership and commitment to the citizens of Autauga County. Commissioner Thompson served from 2008 to 2020, representing the people of District 1, on the Autauga County Commission. She had previously served on the Prattville City Council, representing District 4, for eight years. She was the first woman elected to the commission and the first woman to be voted as president of the city council. The flags in Autauga County may be flown at half-staff on the day of her interment on Saturday, April 17, 2021 until sunset.
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 Indiana, Gov. Eric J. Holcomb issued his own half-staff alert following the Indiana shooting that lasts through sunset on April 20, 2021. His statement reads:
This is another heartbreaking day and I’m shaken by the mass shooting at the FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis. Indiana State Police are working with local responders and we will continue to offer any and all resources needed to assist during this tragedy. In times like this, words like justice and sorrow fall short in response for those senselessly taken. Our thoughts are with the families, friends, coworkers and all those affected by this terrible situation.
Today, I will order that flags be lower to half-staff from now until sunset on Tuesday, April 20 in remembrance of those we’ve lost.
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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