AUSTIN, Texas - North Austin artist Shane Reilly is still planting flags in his yard for every Texan life lost to COVID-19.
"It's quite a sea of flags right now. And it's not slowing down/ just continues to go up," said Reilly. "I didn't think we would get to the five digits."
He started this display in May when the Texas virus death toll was just under 1,000. Now he's hitting an unfortunate milestone. "Honestly, a lot of anger at this point is how I'm feeling hitting the 15,000 mark," Reilly said. "It's hard to put into words, what you feel when you hear something like that."
However, he says he feels an obligation to keep this up. "I've had people donate flags, I've found bundles in line next to my garage door. I feel that, at least in part, people are taking ownership of this work and I'm now a steward of it," Reilly said.
It hasn't been easy. Reilly says he's had to build up a callous in order to keep this up. "At this point, when you look back at that sea of flags, it's hard to differentiate the individuals."
Each time he plants a flag, Reilly remembers that was a person. "I have to consciously remind myself of that, that, you know, this was someone's Mom, this was someone's lover, this was somebody's child."
As the display grows, he hopes to get the message across that COVID-19 is still claiming Texan lives and that Texans must work together to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"Nobody wants to do this anymore. And I don't want to do this anymore. But it hasn't gone away. This hasn't slowed down," Reilly said. "We haven't found a cure. We haven't found proper treatment. We can't get back to normal because we're still in the midst of it."
Reilly plans to continue the display until the new year, and from there, he will decide whether he will continue it.
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