Cape Cod woman plants hundreds of flags at Hyannis rotary to honor COVID-19 victims

HYANNIS, Mass. — One by one, Denise Harris plants small, yellow and red flags at the Airport Rotary in Hyannis.

“It’s still kind of surreal. It’s a little sad to see all of them, but it gives some hope,” she said.

Harris is planting the flags in memory of all the victims on Cape Cod that have died of Covid-19. According to the most recent report from the Barnstable County Health Department, 461 people on Cape Cod have died from Covid-19. That includes Harris’ father, Dennis Brandao.

“He was incredible. I just can’t say it enough, he would give anyone a shirt off his back. It seemed everywhere he went he met a friend,” she said. Brandao died from the virus in January, at age 77. “After he passed I realized nothing had been done on the Cape and it started out small, something to honor him,” Harris said.

Harris has a team of volunteers planting flags. For many of them, like Teresa Rivera, Covid-19 has hit close to home.

“I’ve lost quite a few people to Covid. My brother, my best friend, and my brother-in-law passed away from Covid in the same week,” said Teresa Rivera.

Selin Nacar nearly lost her son to the virus. He’s recovering, but during his first night in the hospital doctors told her he likely wouldn’t make it.

That’s why she volunteers.

“My son could’ve been on one of these flags and I’m blessed that he’s not and my heart goes out to all these people,” she said.

Harris has reached out to as many families as possible and for those who gave permission, she wrote the names, towns and date of passing on a flag.

“I hope when the families drive around the rotary maybe they’ll remember their loved ones aren’t a statistic and they’re being remembered and thought of,” she said.

The flags are a powerful and visual reminder of lives lost, but not forgotten, to the terrible disease. The flags will stay up until June 6. Harris said she will add more, if necessary.

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