"Still Looking for a Place to Park": Flag missing, but patriotism will wave forever

Sometimes the timing of an event makes all the difference.

Most actions -- or mistakes -- that might provoke negative emotion in people are ones to avoid. The desire to avoid those actions becomes even stronger at times when people are especially sensitive to them.

This was a horrible time to realize we lost the American flag that flew at the World Trade Center almost one year ago.

Everyone has seen this flag. Anyone who hasn't has been living in a hole. It is the flag in the picture taken by photographer Thomas Franklin of three fire fighters raising an American Flag over the rubble at Ground Zero in New York City.

Somehow, the person who is responsible for keeping track of that flag has lost it -- and no one has any idea where it is.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that officials believe the flag was flown on U.S. ships serving in the war in Afghanistan. It then returned to New York City officials in March.

The problem is, the flag being preserved by city officials measures 5 feet by 8 feet. The original owners of the famous flag said it measured 4 feet by 6 feet. They realized the discrepancy when they borrowed the flag for an event on their yacht, where the flag flew until Sept. 11, 2001. The couple was preparing to donate the flag to New York City, but they soon realized the flag they had was too big to be theirs.

What an interesting predicament this puts New York City officials in. American flags that have been present during turning points in our nation's history have become national treasures. Old Glory, the very flag referenced by Francis Scott Key in "The Star Spangled Banner" is currently getting a face-lift behind glass windows for all to see at the Smithsonian Museum of National History. Because of the image taken last year, this flag would have likely been given similar treatment in the years to come, especially as it begins to fall apart.

But where could the flag be? The most troubling possibility is that someone trusted with the flag decided he or she deserved to have the flag instead of sharing it with the entire country.

Or, even worse, some traitor to the American cause got his or her hands on the flag and destroyed it to spite us for standing up to the terrorists' attacks.

Either would be hard to accept. But, in the end, Lark-Marie Anton, a spokeswoman for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg might have put it best.

The flag is not what must be preserved. It's what the flag represents that is important.

America's enemies can destroy our tallest towers. They may burn the symbols of our freedom. But they will never -- never -- destroy what we stand for. They will never destroy freedom. Freedom will always reign over oppression even if America as we know it disappears. And America will always be known as the republic that started it all.

The stars and stripes -- whichever red, white and blue ones they may be -- will wave forever.

Write to Jon at jcseidel@bsu.edu


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