Austin artist prepares to take down COVID-19 memorial flags in yard

“It’s been too much pain, I think we need to start healing,” said Shane Reilly, artist in North Austin.

After a year of pain, Reilly is preparing to dismantle the COVID-19 memorial on his front yard in Brentwood. The memorial has tens of thousands of flags, each honoring a Texan killed by the virus.

There is also a sign with a daily updated number, as Reilly eventually runs out of space for flags. “You know it’ll tear you apart because it’s real. It’s mother or someone’s father or loved one.”

The North Austin man plants flags as Texas COVID-19 deaths surpass 30,000

Shane Reilly is an artist and has been planting flags in his garden since May for every death in Texas due to COVID-19.

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Monday was a year after the first COVID-19 death in Texas, a 90-year-old man from Matagorda. “I wanted to show that it’s not just numbers, but people,” said Reilly.

Many flags contain handwritten notes from relatives of the deceased. Reilly left a felt pen in his garden so people could write messages. He says some people have shown up with their own flags as well.

RELATED: North Austin Man Plant Flags as Texan COVID-19 Deaths Rise Over 30,000

“I had grandparents drove up and they got out of the car and came to show their little grandson the flags. At one point they said ‘one of these flags represents your mother’ because he lost his mother, who you know early June”, he said.

Reilly, whose teenage son is immunocompromised, started the memorial last May in hopes of sending a message to Texan lawmakers. “To say, ‘hey, this is a real thing’ and they haven’t believed it for a long time,” he said.

The Austin artist plants over 15,000 flags in his garden for the death of the Texan COVID-19

North Austin artist Shane Reilly started this exhibit in May when the Texas virus death toll was close to 1,000. Now he has reached an unfortunate milestone.

RELATED: Over 15,000 Flags in Austin Yard for Every Texan Life Lost to COVID-19

Reilly’s neighbor, Marc Connelly, watched the memorial grow from its original 972 flags. “I have been and am very critical of the governor, so I think it’s really good to get people’s attention to the fact that all of these people in Texas are dying every day,” he said.

Reilly hopes his Texans will understand that the pandemic is still there, even though the memorial is coming down. He hopes they choose to take care of each other.

RELATED: Austin-based artist plants over 15,000 flags in his garden for the death of the Texan COVID-19

“I believe that we are healing as Texans, but that was real and it affected us all and it still affects us all in a very permanent way and I just don’t want us to lose that lesson.”

RELATED: “Not Just a Number”: Woman Places Flags in Front Yard to Honor Those Who Have Died of COVID-19

Before deconstructing, Reilly asks anyone who wishes to keep a flag in honor of a loved one to contact them on Facebook. He says he is also open to others who move and take over the installation.

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