Barbara Lawlor, Peak to Peak. At first their voices were tremulous, trying to find the right note, trying to blend the harmony. As they moved on through the lines, they gained in confidence and strength, the words becoming clear and triumphant:
“Oh, say, does that Star-Bangled Banner yet wave…”
Our national anthem overpowered the rushing creek that gushed over rocks in front of the Nederland Community Library. It drowned out the wind in the willows and aspens that grew on the banks of the stream.
“O’er the land of the free…”
The choir on the balcony sang out as if they too were reveling in the red, white, and blue flag appearing through a war-smoked sky, our banner of freedom from tyranny and hope for the future.
Veterans, Nederland Library Foundation members, and patriots of all ages held up flags and cheered at the end of the song. They were gathered on the balcony of the NCL to celebrate Flag Day and, on this date, the 200th anniversary of the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” People had dropped in and out all day long to chat, drink coffee, and eat specially baked treats for the occasion, including a red, white, and blue cupcake cake that no one wanted to mar. But they did.
Our American flag was made in Baltimore, Maryland, in July-August, 1813, by flagmaker Mary Pickersgill. It had been commissioned by Major George Farmstead, Commander of Fort McHenry. Its original size was 30 feet by 42 feet and there were 15 stars and 15 stripes. The flag was raised over Fort McHenry on the morning of September 14, 1814, to signal the Americans’ victory over the British in the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. The sight of the flag inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The flag was preserved by the Armistead family as a memento of the battle. It was first loaned to the Smithsonian Institution in 1907and then was converted to a permanent gift in 1912. It has been on exhibit at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. since 1964. In 1998, the flag was removed from public exhibition and underwent a 10-year restoration process. It was returned to public view in 2008.
The NCL Foundation event organizer Jean Foss says it is important for people to get together and remember our forefathers’ battle for independence and the people who played roles in the traditions that our country upholds today.
As our national anthem soared over the creek and the highway and drifted toward the meadows and mountain peaks, the singers on the library deck headed back indoors for coffee and cupcakes, devouring the red, white, and blue frosted flag.