William Blount, 12, held his red cardboard square as high as he could, hoping that U.S. soldiers, possibly watching on television, would see how proudly he held his part of the American flag.
Blount was one of about 4,000 Maryland students who formed a human flag yesterday morning at Fort McHenry, as part of a commemorative ceremony honoring the bombardment of the site and Francis Scott Key's writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 1814.
"I think they will feel good when they see this because they fought to hold up the flag. We should take a part of it, too," said Blount, a student at Northwood Elementary School in north Baltimore.
The students who took part in this year's human flag formation seemed more excited about displaying patriotism than did students participating at the event in recent years, said several teachers and school officials.
"The children are much more aware, more patriotic," said Gladys Miller, a librarian from William Paca Elementary School. "Many of them had relatives who served in the Persian Gulf."
One youngster, 8-year-old Karen Cheng, said she was thinking of a friend who has recently returned from war as she held up her part of the flag.
"I think he's proud of us and he's happy because everyone's up here thanking him and stuff," Cheng said of her friend Christopher, 28. "I thought about him a lot when he was gone for the war."
Students from 75 Maryland schools helped form the flag, representing 22 of the state's 24 jurisdictions. Allegany and Worcester counties were unable to raise money to transport students for the event. Most of the students who participated attend elementary school, but the stars were held by selected junior high and high school students from across the state.
"I think this was an excellent opportunity for the students to get a hands-on view of history in progress," said Laura Austin, a Northwood Elementary School math teacher. "They're learning about Fort McHenry, Founder's Day, Francis Scott Key and the War of 1812, and they're also becoming a part of history by being here today."