"Mommy? Why is it so low?"
My eldest daughter, S, was looking past the car at the large American Flag in the Kroger parking lot. It was at half-mast.
"Oh, uh... they lowered it for the bombing in Boston."
Okay, mama....This is one of those learning moments... try to give her a good answer. "Well, it's the country's way of saying that we're sad. Many people were hurt yesterday. Some people even died. We lower the flag to let them know that the country supports them."
My youngest daughter, B, smiled her mischievous smile and said, "I want to touch it."
Knowing she would attempt to climb the pole to touch the flag if I let her get a step closer, I said, "No, you can't touch the flag. But, you can put your hand over your heart and say the Pledge of Allegiance. You know the pledge, right?"
So there we were, in the Kroger parking lot, hands over hearts, saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
On the drive home, S stated that she knows the American song.
'You mean the National Anthem?"
She tilted her head back and sang, "Oooooooooh say can you seeeeeeeee by the dawn's early lightttttt! What so proudly we hail by the gleaming stars!!!"
"Close, baby. I'll sing it for you." And I started singing. Badly. And I'm pretty sure I messed up a line or two. But, I was trying. I've sung The Star-Spangled Banner at ball games. I had to sing it a few times when I was in the elementary school chorus when the music teacher was forgiving and perhaps a little tone deaf. It's a hard song to sing. My girls giggled from the backseat when I hit a few sour notes. I didn't mind and kept going. Then I got to the line:
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
My eyes filled with tears. My voice cracked and I couldn't keep singing. I always get a little choked up when I hear that line and I could never figure out why. I guess I always thought it was the swell of the music and not the words that touched a nerve. But, today I finally figured it out.
Yesterday, The Hub called me when he heard the news about the Boston marathon bombing. It was still early and we knew less details than the little we know now. There were two bombs at the finish line. At the time, there were two deaths reported and many critical injuries which included severed limbs. This hit home for The Hub because he was born in Massachusetts. His entire family lives or has lived there at one time or another. When we came home from work, we ate dinner in front of the T.V. and watched the news reports. It was awful. It was scary. It was unreal. Once again, I had to explain to my little girls that the world is filled with evil people and sometimes bad things happen to good people and I don't know why. I fell asleep with fear in my heart again.
But, it was business as usual this morning. Get up, get ready, get the kids ready, get to work, do my job, drive home, get the kids, run errands and get ready for another day. Even though I listened to the radio shows talk about Boston and their feelings on the matter, I felt numb to it all. I suppose it was my way of moving on and "not letting the bad guy win." Maybe I didn't dwell on it because I was afraid I might jinx my good fortune for not being one of the victims. Maybe I just didn't want to believe that someone could wake up one morning and decide that today was a good day to hurt other people. It wasn't until I sang that line that it dawned on me why I wasn't scared to leave my house this morning and how I was able to keep on keeping on even though there was no way I could be certain that my world wouldn't end today.
Our flag was still there.
Francis Scott Key did not see the rocket's red glare and the bombs bursting in air as "the end." The light from the explosions lit up the night sky so he could see the flag. Every flash gave him a glimpse of hope. As long as that flag was there, we were still there. What a beautiful thought. Even in the most devastating moments, there is hope. The flag is a grand symbol of our county. The flag is also the grand symbol of us. The flag is the first responders who ran into the blast. The flag is the stranger holding another stranger on Boylston Street. The flag is a nation in mourning for the pain and suffering that was placed upon group of regular everyday people cheering on marathon runners and celebrating Patriot's Day. Whether it is a bomb burst, an airplane crash, a gun shot, or a freak accident, these tragedies light up the darkness and give proof that We, the People are still good. The flag is still there. As long as we stand together and help each other, we are still there.
I know our country is not perfect. There is a lot of feuding about what's fair and what's right. We are not in the best way financially and there are times when it doesn't seem like we're going to get out of the hole. Everyone has an opinion and there isn't a lot of compromise. We have a lot to work on. But, we're a family. I love my family even though there are things I don't like about my family. But, heaven help anyone who tries to mess with my family. We might not be perfect, but we stand together when things get tough. The same brothers who throw punches at each other will band together and love each other. We are a big dysfunctional family and I am so very proud to be part of it. We will mourn the ones we lost yesterday. We will try to make sense of what happened and why. We will celebrate the heroes. We will try to find the bad guys and bring them to justice. We will carry on and remember what we learned from this horrific event. And with time, we will be fine.
To my brothers and sisters in Boston: We love and support you. We are still here.