Flag Etiquette: Flags Fly Half-Staff for September 11th Tributes
Flags across the United States will fly at half mast today in tribute to the September 11th 2001 attacks, but why do people do this and what is the proper etiquette for flying a flag at half staff?
Flags began to be flown at half-mast or half-staff centuries ago to show, respect, mourning or distress. It is only half way up the flagpole to allow for the invisible flag of death to be flown at the top of the pole.
When a flag is flown at half-mast, it should be raised to the top of the pole, then lowered down and the same applies when taking the flag down, it should be raised to the top first and then taken down.
Half-mast usually refers to a flag aboard a ship, so the term half-staff is more commonly used now.
On September 11th 2006, then President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush stood on an American Flag carpet at Ground Zero and this was actually a flag violation as the Flag Code says that no part of the flag should touch anything beneath it, such as the ground.
Every country has its own rules for flying their flag at half-staff. In the United States:
Federal law requires the flag be flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), unless that day is also Armed Forces Day. Yearly presidential proclamations also mandate that the flag be flown at half-staff on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7), and September 11 (Patriot Day).