Memorial dedicated to Idaho lives lost to COVID-19
DRIGGS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - 298 small white flags surround the American flag pole in Bruce Mason's front yard in Driggs.
Mason has been flying his flag at half-staff since early Spring for everyone who lost their lives to the coronavirus. He says when neighbors asked him why the flag was flying at half-staff, he began to realize the lack of awareness.
“Unfortunately for whatever reason, maybe political reasons, economic reasons, but I think their deaths are being overlooked,” Mason said. “And I didn’t want that to happen.”
In May, when the death toll from COVID-19 in Idaho reached 69, Bruce began his memorial. For each Idahoan who dies from COVID-19, Bruce adds a little white flag to his front yard.
Bruce hopes it will help people realize that people are dying from COVID-19 and it’s happening here in Idaho.
“I got myself a package of little white construction flags and put them out,” Mason said. “As the days went by and the deaths kept growing, so I kept adding more and more flags.”
Being a vulnerable senior member of the community, he couldn't do much to help except stay home and not spread the virus or bring it back to his family.
To show his concern and respect for fellow Idahoans, and to paint a real picture of our state's losses, he plants a flag for each person who dies.
“I think about the people. And those people are like you and me,” Mason said. “They probably like to climb in the mountains and hunt and fish, you know, eat pizza and drink beer. They’re just Idahoans. I don’t want to reduce them to a little number. That little flag is a little bit more than that.”
Every afternoon at 5 o'clock, when the State of Idaho releases the day's statistics, Mason sadly places the new flags.
“When it starts to get close to 5, you know, I start feeling down because I know it’s just going to keep growing,” Mason said.
Mason says he fights off the feelings of being angry at people who minimize the seriousness of the virus. He says it’s not fair to those who have lost their lives.
“For my own safety, I’d like to see people do a little better,” Mason said. “I’m going to be 70 next year. Of course, my wife is a young thing, she’s not that old, but she has some underlying conditions that put her at risk too.”
He wonders how many more little white flags will be needed.
“What we’re doing now, just obviously isn’t working,” Mason said. “We’re losing more people every day. And we’ve got to do more.”
Mason says we should be listening to medical professionals. Teton County has a mask mandate and the Masons say there hasn’t been very much push back.
He hopes his memorial will inspire people to care about one another. He says he feels a responsibility to his community.
“I love this community. Some people move here for the scenery or the outdoor life or the fresh air. But I moved here for the people,” Mason said.
Mason plays bagpipes once a week and his wife records video for the community page for Teton County. He says they started this tradition as a pick me up to help people get through the pandemic. Mason will be playing Amazing Grace this Sunday, August 23, anticipating the COVID-19 deaths in Idaho to surpass 300.
“The main reason for the memorial is to remember these people and show some respect for their lives and maybe help people learn the lesson that their deaths teach us about how to take care of ourselves and what to do and what not to do,” Mason said.
When the snow begins to fall, Bruce has black flags raised a little higher to signify each group of 25 lives that have been lost to COVID-19. He says he will raise the flags as needed so the memorial can continue.