Tuesday, July 27, 1999

State of Hawaii

Star-Bulletin file photo
At the governor's order, the state flag was flown
at half-staff at the Capitol on Jan. 28, 1986, in
memory of Hawaii astronaut Ellison Onizuka.

Sadly, state flag
flown at half-staff often

The JFK Jr. tragedy is
an example of when the
governor orders it lowered

Star-Bulletin staff


Last week, the Hawaii state flag was flown at half-staff in memory of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Caroline Bessette Kennedy and his sister-in-law Lauren Bessette.

Earlier this year, the isles' flag was lowered in respect of the victims of the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

And in recent years, the state flag also was lowered to mourn the passing of the Revs. Abraham Akaka and Charles Kekumano, state Sen. Richard Matsuura of Hilo, labor leader Art Rutledge, entertainer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Generally, the Hawaii flag is flown at half-staff under two circumstances, says Kathleen Racuya-Markrich, Gov. Ben Cayetano's press secretary.

The governor, at his discretion, can issue a proclamation ordering the lowering of the flag as a gesture symbolizing the mourning of isle residents.

Or there may be a proclamation from the White House ordering the U.S. flag to be flown at half-staff. For reasons of protocol, the state flag can't fly higher than the U.S. flag. As a result, the lowering of the U.S. flag also triggers the lowering of the state flag, Racuya-Markrich says.

"The rule of thumb is to lower the state flag until the day of the memorial service," she adds.

And the Hawaii flag may be kept lowered for just one day or for several days. "It depends," Racuya-Markrich says. "Sometimes it is from the point when we learn the news of a person's passing until that person's memorial service. Typically, the order is just for the day of the memorial service."

Traditionally, isle governors have ordered the state flag flown at half-staff to honor current or former elected officials or notable community leaders whose contributions to the state were outstanding, Racuya-Markrich says.

The lowered state flag has even mourned fallen heroes, like helicopter pilot Peter Crown and Honolulu police officers Bryant Bayne and Tate Kahakai. They were killed in 1995 when their Fire Department helicopter crashed while searching for a hiker.

Occasionally, the state flag at half-staff symbolized the state's grief at the passing of national or international figures, such as Kennedy Jr. and Princess Diana.

The flag's lowering also has saluted particular groups of people -- police officers killed in the line of duty and on the 10th anniversary of the deaths of seven astronauts, including Hawaii's Ellison Onizuka, who were killed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986.

There also has been the rare instance when flying the flag at half-staff honored the living. On July 27, 1996, Cayetano had state flags flown at half-staff as a tribute to Korean War veterans as part of Korean War veterans Armistice Day.

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