Patriot Day Flag Etiquette | September 11

Every year we get the same questions in regards to flag etiquette and Patriot Day (September 11th).  Because we’ve become experts in this area and because we want to help better educate the public on proper flag display, we’ve gathered together the most common questions, and their answers.

American flag and flowers at the National September 11 Memorial
American flag and flowers at the National September 11 Memorial. Photo by Rebecca Wilson

Q: Are flags supposed to fly at half-staff on Patriot Day?

A: Yes, Patriot Day is one of the official days for American flags to fly at half-staff throughout the USA.  Each year the President will put out a new proclamation talking about the significance of the day and it will specify that flags are to be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset on that day. Click on the links below to see past Presidential Proclamations for September 11th.

Joint Resolution Proclaiming Patriot Day

Past Proclamations

2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

American flag at half staff
American flag at half staff. Photo courtesy of Bill & Vicki T.

Q: Do I have to lower my flag to half-staff?

A: It is only required that federal and state institutions follow the protocol outlined in the Presidential Proclamation, however they often do encourage the public to participate.  While private business, homes and organizations don’t have to participate, it is a gesture of remembrance for the lives lost on that terrible day.

Q: What is the proper way to lower the flag to half-staff?

A: If your flag is flying 24 hours a day (typically this means that it is lit at night with a spotlight), then you will simply lower the flag to half staff in the morning and then raise it again in the evening.  Another flag should never fly above the American flag, so if you’ve got others flying, it is appropriate to either lower them or remove them prior to lowering your American flag.  If you take your flag in at night and head out in the morning to fly your flag at half-staff, then you would first raise it to full-staff for a moment, and then lower it for the day.  When taking it down in the evening you would also raise it to full staff before bringing it down and removing it for the night.

Q: What if I can’t get to my flagpole at dawn and dusk?

A: If your schedule simply won’t let you get to the flagpole for typical raising and lowering times, you can adjust them to fit your needs.  Remember, the proclamation is only mandatory for federal and state properties.  If you want to participate in honoring September 11th with your flag lowered to half-staff, it is your right to raise and lower your flag when you can.  While we don’t recommend leaving the flag lowered for a long period of time, it is all-right to lower it the night before or raise it back to full staff the next day so that you can participate.

Mourning ribbon flying with an American flag
Mourning ribbon flying with an American flag. Photo by Kim

Q: What if I want to participate but my flagpole doesn’t accommodate a flag at half-staff?

A: Most in-ground flagpoles will allow for you to lower your flag in times of mourning.  Depending on the style, it may require that you remove a lower flag and move the American flag down a place.  It does not have to be exactly half way between the top and bottom of the pole to be correct.  If your flagpole is mounted at an angle off the house or doesn’t have a way to lower the flag, there is a ribbon option that can be added to your American flag in times of mourning.  It is a black mourning ribbon, the same size as the bottom stripe of your flag, that is attached to the top of the American flag.  Some people make it into a bow but the American Legion specifies a ribbon to show mourning in this case.

If you’ve got more questions about flag etiquette, even if it doesn’t pertain to September 11th, please contact Gettysburg Flag Works for help.  Flags are our business and we believe that proper etiquette is as important as flying a quality, American made, American flag.

One Comment

  1. Suzanne Saros Kunze

    The enclosed information was very helpful regarding lowering the flag on Patriot Day! Thank you!!


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