Flags fly as spirit glows

A wounded nation grasps Old Glory and raises her proudly

Mourning, patriotism, defiance

Terrorism Strikes America

Maryland

September 13, 2001|By Laura Vozzella and Eric Siegel | Laura Vozzella and Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Old Glory waved from front porches, stood tall in flower pots and glowed from computer screens yesterday, as if the calendar had suddenly flipped to July 4.

A star-spangled symbol of mourning, patriotism and even defiance, the flag came out of mothballs and flew off store shelves.

Wal-Mart sold 88,000 flags nationwide Tuesday, the day terrorists struck. The retailer sold 6,400 on the same date last year, a company spokesman said.

"I think everybody should be hanging their flags today, until we get this conflict settled," said Derek Deneke, 29, vice president of The Big Iguana Co. Ltd., a chain of funky home decor and clothing stores that normally couldn't be confused with a VFW hall.

Deneke bought 4-by-6 foot flags for the chain's five stores in Ellicott City and Fells Point, mounting them fully upright on his storefronts.

"There's a sadness, so you want to fly it at half-staff," he said, "but you also want to fly it as high as you can to show how strong of a nation we are, to show we're not broken down."

In a crisis, U.S. patriotic symbols held special poignancy. Marylanders and others still shaken by Tuesday's attacks clung to Americana traditional and offbeat, from the towering remains of Memorial Stadium to the red-white-and-blue hair beads strung in a Johns Hopkins student's hair.

Patriotic messages splashed in front of stores and churches also captured the public mood.

One morning the sign board outside the Old Mill Bakery Cafe in Ellicott City had blared: "Bagels Bagels Bagels." The next, it read: "God Bless America."

"Pray for Our Nation and for the Loved Ones Lost," read the sign outside Galvanize, a vintage clothing store in Hampden. The Crabcake Factory on Annapolis' West Street assured victims: "Our thoughts are with you."

Some signs of the trauma were harder to spot, but startling nonetheless.

The IKEA store in White Marsh pulled framed photos of New York's night skyline from its shelves. Customers trying to purchase the poster-size pictures - collector's items now that the World Trade Center towers are gone - were told that IKEA plans to destroy them because it doesn't want to profit from the tragedy.

A Baltimore florist blamed the crisis for some business headaches, but also said it made clients more understanding.

J.J. Cummings Floral Co. was still waiting for the boxes of tropical flowers and tulips ordered for three weekend weddings. One bride-to-be began to panic when she heard that flowers from local growers might be substituted, but quickly put things into perspective and said it didn't matter.

"Everybody is being so forgiving about everything," said office manager Anita Gold.

That same spirit pervaded Bethel A.M.E. Church, as hundreds of Christians, Jews and Muslims gathered for a prayer service.

"Today there is no Jew or Gentile; we are all united in pain, grief, hurt and anger," Rabbi Steven Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom said.

Hands clapping, feet stomping, they packed the pews, and their prayers and hymns built to a crescendo of two gospel songs: "Healing" and "We Shall Overcome." Many people wept, and one woman swooned amid the prayers.

"It was very important for me to come tonight," said Tina Allen of Randallstown, who has been trying to contact relatives in New York. "It's a time for people to come together and unify as one."

Still, there was, perhaps, no clearer sign of people pulling together than the sudden outbreak of red, white and blue. Flags of all sizes fluttered from mailboxes, trees and more traditional perches. Tiny 97-centers were taped to car antennas. Full-size banners set patriots back $19.96 at Wal-Mart - if they could find one in stock.

"We've been selling them like crazy. Everybody coming in is saying, `Where's your flags? Where's your flags?'" said Russell Woodrum, co-manager of the Catonsville store. "About every third customer wants to know where the flags are. I'm probably sold out completely."

The Associated Press was offering an online photo of firefighters raising a flag amid the World Trade Center's rubble. The wire service suggested downloading the photo to use as computer screen "wallpaper."

On The Avenue, Hampden's shopping strip, Vince Cuffari took down the large snowball and ice cream flags outside his ice cream shop and replaced them with the Stars and Stripes.

The Vietnam War veteran also put pairs of smaller flags in his shop's ground floor window and on the counter.

"We wanted to put the flags up to show our support and solidarity for our people and that they're not going to get the best of us," said Cuffari, 53.

Many Hampden blocks - noted for their over-the-top Christmas decorations - were also decked out in red, white and blue. Nearly half the houses were flying the flag on some blocks.

Marty Taylor, 51, said her husband, Wayne, put their flag up yesterday afternoon. "He put the flag up because he felt it was an attack against all Americans, not just the people in those buildings."

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