Summer 2006

 

 

 


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glory in the ashes
Kirsten Jacobson

A small patch of tarnished fabric is all that remains of me among the ashes. In this final breath, I remember many things. No one thing has made me what I am, but the events and ideals that have shaped me are monumental as they rise with the smoke.

I was born in the hands of a Philadelphia seamstress. But I was not content there, not while the Revolution was at hand. I belonged with the patriots on the battlefield. I fought with them, though I never held a gun. My duty was unique, and when the war was won, I climbed high and watched the British fleets sail into the horizon. We were no longer rebels; we were heroes.

My comrades of the Revolution grew old and died, but my blood ran strong. I found that as long as America survived, I was immortal. I remember the shelling of Fort McHenry. It was a long night, but when the sun broke the horizon, I stood tall to greet Francis Scott Key, who had been detained on the British ship overnight.

I sailed twice around the world with Captain William Driver, who named me Old Glory upon welcoming me to his ship. He hid me in his house in Nashville when the Confederates sought to destroy me, in a time when our indivisible nation was so thoroughly divided. That was the Civil War, where we learned that the freedom to oppress others is not consistent with liberty.

I remember when the guns opened up on Iwo Jima. The whole island sizzled like a hot skillet, smoking after the firing ceased. I stood on that island with the men from Easy Company: Hayes, Sousley, Bradley, Block, Strank, and Gagnon.

Brutally, we were sobered when the Towers fell. But I was raised in their place at Ground Zero to remind the world that our foundation is deeper than any man-made structure.

These memories seem so conflicting with what is before me now. A small flame is creeping up my red stripe—the stripe of courage and integrity, self-sacrifice and devotion. The dirty heat has turned my white stripe to a blackish hue—the stripe of liberty and equality. In the rolling smoke I see the ghost of the blue banner—the banner of loyalty and faith. And the sparkling embers of my remains remind me of the stars that flew on my banner. The ignorant mocking of a riotous crowd rings above the liberty bell that stands cold in her casing.

Why have I become a victim of this expression? I remember when patriotism and civil freedoms were coupled in harmony. Now it seems that one must be sacrificed so the other can thrive. But fire can be an ironic instrument of death, for it also ignites life. Every time I have fallen in flame I have ascended in multitudes. My stars and stripes may be burned away, but my symbol is eternal. I am Old Glory, even in the ashes.

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