Dec. 5, Wednesday--Ground Zero
The Spirit Of The Hero's Blood, Purity And Prosperity Still Flies Proudly
I was impressed. The
Red, the White, and the Blue stand proud and strong. Walking around the
East Village I notice the dominance of American Flags flying
from such a wide range of businesses.
Chinese restaurants, Tibetan clothing
stores, Indian food shops--even bars and delis that favor mostly Middle
Eastern clientele sported Old Glory..
I took the day to scour the Lower
East Side for pictures of flags. I saw them sticking on top of
Santa's hat next to Puerto Rican flags...and even saw one fluttering in
the wind atop a giant hamburger used as a display in front of Paul's
Place--which touts the "world's greatest
Flags and variations of them hung in
apartment windows, behind the windows of doors, in laundromats and dress
shops. They were mixed with the reds and greens of Christmas
Since September 11, the New York City Chapter of the Hells
Angels flies a giant Holiday Flag well over twenty feet in length. It stretches across 3rd St. between 1st and 2nd
Avenues and waves in the wind like a giant red, white and blue reminder of
the sacrifice offered by the victims of the Terrorist tragedy. I
remember Colonel Leon Utter, Battalion Commander of the 2nd Battalion,
Seventh Marines, telling us what the colors of the flag meant before we
went into battle. He gathered us in our make-shift church and told
us why we were to not be afraid of dying that day, or any day.
The red, he said, represented the blood of those
who had given their lives for our freedom. The white symbolized the
purity of the warrior's innocence--his or her willingness to sacrifice his
or her life for others. He clutched the flag in his hand, squeezing
it as though it were a Holy Grail, and held up the fabric for all of us to
see. The blue, he stated, was the prosperity for which we
might die--the prosperity of a people who had a right to be free to chose
their destiny, to become whomever and whatever they so desired.
Then he reminded us our mission was not to die, but if we did, our
blood would be sewn into the fabric of the American Flag, along with so
many hundreds of thousands of others who had given their lives so others
might never forget that dying for the flag was the highest honor any
citizen could give to future generations--for it meant dying for the
freedom of others.
I was inspired. So was everyone
else. I thought of Colonel Utter's speech that day, over
thirty-five years ago, as I walked around soaking up the blood of the
heroes whose souls comprised the threads of all the flags I saw.
There was one flag I missed. It
was an "adapted" American Flag. I had passed it many times since the
Second Tuesday of September, and decided to take a picture of it. In
the center of the flag was an Indian sitting atop his pony, head hung low,
looking into the sunset.
The famous picture--The
Last Sunset--was going to make a great picture. But the owner of the
flag had removed it from the front of his window, or, someone took a
liking to it and "borrowed it." I was disappointed.
On my photo trek I happened by
the fire station that serves our neighborhood--Engine Company 28 and
Ladder Company 11. The station flies the American Flag and the MIA
flag at half-mast. Prior to Sept. 11, I saluted the MIA flag,
and found it inspiring they would give it equal honor to the American
I realized the
POW-MIA flag not only meant those Americans who were left behind in
Vietnam, but also, those Americans still "missing in action" here in the
United States--imprisoned by Terrorism. Some still fear the
Terrorists and haven't yet conjured the courage to stand up to the bully.
Then, there are those MIAs, thousands of them, whose bodies have not been
identified from the World Trade Center, and may never be. I
saluted them also.
I was looking through a
I saw the details of American Spirit. I even noticed those
establishments which didn't display any flags. My first
thought was that they were un-American, then I restrained myself.
The beauty of America is that you can Voice your opinion without fault.
When we demand things of citizens, we lose the reason our flag is red,
white and blue. We forget the red of the blood of those who
died so others could protest. We forget the white of our "purity,"
that allows anyone from any land to come our land and make it their
"home," and chose to "believe" or "not believe" in our principles and
foundations. And the blue, the "prosperity," is the guarantee
we offer any child born in America to become a citizen of this land, and
enjoy the powers and protection of our Constitution that allows the rights
of all to overpower the rights of the few, whether they be the richest or
poorest of minorities.
Tomorrow, I have the honor of
babysitting my three-year-old granddaughter. I thought about taking
her around to different stores and looking in the windows.
Starbucks is one of the prime targets.
I was at Starbucks writing when the first load of American Flags came
in. I helped tape one to the window. It came from
Corporate Headquarters. I noted that every Starbucks has the same
flag hanging from the front window. Oddly, I noticed the
absence of such flags in the McDonald's windows. Not to suggest that
McDonald's isn't patriotic, but Starbucks was quick to the draw. It
had flags in its stores within what seemed like a a few hours of the
I thought about her young mind seeing the American Flag honored in New
York City as it may never have been honored before. No one can
say for sure, but the power of the spirit of the American Flag seems to
have grown over the days and weeks since the tragic assault on America's
We have many MIA's resulting from the
Terrorists. But as long as the Flag flies, I know we won't
forget to be Semper Vigilante--Always Vigilant.
I haven't forgotten the blood, the
purity or the prosperity of the flag. And, my granddaughter,
while she may not know intellectually the power behind our flag's meaning,
I know she understands it stands proud--and it's colors don't run.