September 9, 2014

O, Say Can You See?

About 15 years ago, I was sitting in a bland conference room, in a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Friends of Fort McHenry. We were speculating about the 200th anniversary of the writing of the National Anthem in 2014. At that time, 2014 seemed so far away, but we knew the planning had to start then, and that everything would culminate over the weekend of September 12-14, 2014.

The time is nigh. image

Two years ago, Star-Spangled 200 was launched with the Star-Spangled Sailabration, when dozens of tall ships, battleships and other sea-faring vessels arrived in Baltimore for a weekend celebration. You can read about it here, here and here.image

The next week will be filled with amazing events, from the arrival of the tall ships, to the spectacular aerial acrobatics of the Blue Angels, to the mock battle that will take place over 25 hours, to a massive fireworks display lighting up the Inner Harbour, to the raising of the flag, exactly 200 years to the hour, after Francis Scott Key first spotted it in the distance.

Here are some other things I am excited about.

Today, more than 6,000 children gathered, for the 100th year, to create a living flag at Fort McHenry.image

Local company, Under Armour, has kitted out the University of Maryland’s football team in uniforms with the Star-Spangled banner’s original words printed on them. The captains will wear red belts, as did the captains in the War of 1812 did.imageimageimage

They have added 15-star and 15-stripe flags to the top of the Washington Monument. Notice that on these flags, the blue field rests atop a red stripe. This is the only version in which this happens.image

The Blue Angels will be flying again. Last time, I saw them twice. I am going to try to see them all four times they fly this time!image

By the Dawn’s Early Light flag-raising ceremony. The flag will be raised at the exact time that Francis Scott Key saw it after the Battle of Baltimore. I am not hugely patriotic, but seeing this flag  over the actual ramparts, as you sing the anthem, does me in.image

The original manuscript of the National Anthem will be on display at Fort McHenry for the first time in decades.image

The words to the anthem are essentially a question that’s asked in the first verse and answered in the subsequent three verses. At our lecture on the writing of the anthem at work, we started the event with by singing the first and at the end, sang the last verse, which is my favorite.

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner - O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto - “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

imageFor more information about events at Fort McHenry, click here. For more overall information about Star-Spangled 200 events, click here.

My sincerest congratulations to all of my friends, including former fellow board members, the staff at Fort McHenry, Star-Spangled 200 and everyone else who has worked so hard for so many years to present this event, the largest in Baltimore’s history. I am so proud of all you’ve done! THIS is Baltimore!


  1. I would love to be in Baltimore for this celebration. Enjoy!

  2. My friend Gregory who is a curator at Fort McHenry sent me this note: I'm the tiny tan dot on the grass to the right of the small truck on the roadway that's to the left of the flag! Now see if you can spot Gregory!

  3. We've been seeing the ads up here in Lancaster! We hope to make it down. Sounds like it is going to be great! Love the football uniforms.

    1. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected.

  4. Meg, thanks for the inspired summary, whetting our "appetite" for all the sights and sounds of this celebration! Amazing amounts of work and planning - over 15 years (!!!) - to culminate in the next few days. Thanks to one and all. Can't WAIT!

  5. Meg, a spectacular event down to the Star Spangled Banner Under Armour team attire. Patriotism is definitely in the air!

    The Arts by Karena

  6. Despite the events of the past decade and a half, your team stayed calm and carried on. I guess the economy and the new normal is here to stay.

    1. Don't think that the economy has much to do with this... it's a once-in-a-lifetime celebration!

  7. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, as a Terps fan, I love that Under Armour chose to outfit the team in this manner.

  8. Hello Meg, An event truly worth of a big celebration. It stands to reason that you have been an important planner of this all along, as Baltimore's #1 promoter.

    1. Sadly, I left the Friends board when I moved to the UK, and didn't rejoin when I came back. But my office has played a small part in the celebrations.

  9. My husband is from Baltimore and every time you write about it, I send the E-mail to him. Thank you for doing this. I am hugely patriotic and my heart feels as if it will burst with pride when I see our flag.

    1. This flag, which is the 15 star and 15 stripe flag, is the flag that all of the city's flagpoles fly!

  10. Oh Meg, this is so exciting. And how incredible to have in on the planning. And speaking of football...go Ravens.

    Xo J

    1. Just the very beginnings of the planning! But it's fun seeing it finally happening.

  11. Thanks for sharing, Meg. Wish I could be in Baltimore to celebrate this amazing time in American history. I was a docent at the Flag House in my younger years. Mary Pickersgill deserves more attention than she's ever received for making the flag that flew over Ft. McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key. Have fun! Ginann


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