Thursday, July 30, 2009
Yesterday, the rain stopped early in the morning, way before dawn. And, as the sun poked its way above the horizon, it became apparent that today would be our first, totally rainless day since our arrival in Baltimore. Having rented a car for a couple of days, this would be the perfect day to visit Ft. McHenry; that great symbol of American Liberty, Freedom and the site where our National Anthem was born.
I have always loved our National Anthem. It’s words are difficult to sing and its tune borderline impossible. But, I love it and my heart skips a beat, my chest swells with pride and I stop whatever I’m doing whenever I hear it played. Knowing I was actually going to visit its birthplace today had me more excited than a five year old on Christmas morning.
After a 20-minute ride, not including the mandatory stop at McDonald’s, we were on the grounds of the fort, which are the best kept of any National Park we’ve visited. Being a weekday, parking was a snap and we were soon inside the Visitor’s Center. Here, we picked up our tickets and learned that, in about 10 minutes, a special flag show was going to be performed in the historic section of the fort. Not knowing what it was going to be, but not wanting to miss it either, Kim and I quickly walked the 150 yards from the Visitor’s Center to the Fort’s interior.
Once inside, the Park Rangers divided the tourists into two lines, facing each other. The Ranger then passed a 42’ double roll of nylon down between the two lines and had each line slowly back up, unrolling their side of the roll as they went. Suddenly, it became apparent we were unrolling a flag. Not just any flag, but a 42’ x 30’ exact replica of the flag that had flown over Fort McHenry at the time of the battle. With 15 stripes, each 2’ wide, and 15 stars, each 2’ from tip to tip, the flag was enormous. As the forty or so tourists stood there holding the flag, the Ranger told us about the Fort, the Flag and the battle that resulted in our National Anthem. After his presentation, we rerolled the flag and passed it back to the Ranger, who stored it away. It was quite an experience.
With the show over and the Flag put away, Kim and I continued our tour of the Fort. The tour is self-guided, but there are volunteers and Rangers along the way to answer any questions that may arise. This portion took about an hour, after which we went back to the Visitor’s Center to watch a film that was followed by a recording of Naval Academy Choir singing the National Anthem. While the rendition was closer to a hymn and not the tempo at which the Anthem is supposed to be played, it was nonetheless very moving.
With our Fort tour complete, Kim and I got into the car and drove another 20 minutes to Annapolis, MD; Maryland’s Capitol, sailing capitol of the U.S. and home to the U. S. Naval Academy. We toured parts of the city we hadn’t visited before, found a National Cemetery from the Civil War and did some last minute shopping. Afterwards, we pointed the car back towards Baltimore, and in about 45 minutes, we were back on the boat with a hot Papa John’s Pizza. It had been a wonderful day.
Posted by Gordon Jump at 7:41:00 PM