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Shortly after September 11, I noticed an American flag flying from the flag pole in the parking lot of the empty building across the street from Mitchell Road. The daycare that had been in the old building had moved out several years ago. The property had had a forgotten look about it for quite some time. So the flag flying in the breezes of late summer caught my attention as I stood at the front of my classroom and could see out the window. Everyday the flag was still flying. It was an inspiration to me during those first days after the attack on our nation. I never saw anyone on the property. I wondered who could have put up the flag. I could figure out why someone did it, however. Someone was proud to be an American and wanted to fly our country’s colors in a very prominent place. Days and weeks went by, and the flag still flew. What a powerful message it had for me each time I looked out the window!

Almost a month later, I noticed something going on in the parking lot by the flag pole. I kept watching while I was teaching. My curiosity was really aroused. A man got out of a big dark car. He clipped the flag to the cords on the flag pole and raised the flag. Again, it flew proudly in the breeze. Though I kept teaching my mind wondered who the man was? Why did he choose to fly the flag from that pole? What kind of person was this man who cared so much about his country?

That was on a wet Friday. All weekend I thought and wondered about the Flag Man. I told my husband about what I had been observing. I decided that I was going to write The Flag Man a note to thank him and let him know how much seeing the flag flying during these days of concern and sadness in our country meant to me.

Monday was a beautiful day. Even at 8:00 AM the sun was shining brightly. As I started talking to the class, the flag was standing straight out in the morning breeze. Wow! It was beautiful! I stopped what I was going to talk about and asked the students to get up and go stand at the windows. That is always an exciting thing to do if you are six or seven years old, so they hopped right to the windows. I directed their attention to the flag and told them the story that I have just shared with you. They were instantly as fascinated about the flag as I had been. They decided that we should write a letter together for the Flag Man. So I got out the chart paper, the red and blue Magic Markers, and we got busy.

Teachers will understand: I was making an educational experience out of writing the letter. Where to put the date, the greeting, the body, the closing…

When we got to the greeting, I asked what they wanted to call the man since we did not know his name. Immediately, the unanimous response was, “Dear Mr. Friend.” And so we began. The letter was awesome. I wrote exactly what they told me to write. Though I cannot remember everything, they included that the flag was very pretty and he must be a caring American to fly it so everyone could see it. They said they were proud to be Americans, too. They thanked him for sharing his flag and for loving America. After the closing, which we signed Love, Cloer’s Classy Clowns, First Grade, Mitchell Road School, each child signed his or her name with the blue and red markers. We folded the chart paper to approximately 8 X 11. We decided that later in the day, we would walk to the end of the drive way of the school. Mrs. Aiken, our aide, would walk across the street and tape the letter on the flag pole.

The school day passed. After computer lab, we decided that we better get on down there and let Mrs. Aiken tape the letter because it was getting almost time to go home. We lined up. We got the digital camera to take Mrs. Aiken’s photo as she taped the the letter to the pole. As we walked down the driveway, a big dark car pulled into the parking lot across the street. It stopped at the entrance to the old building. I said to Mrs. Aiken that I thought that the car looked like the one that I had seen on the previous Friday. She said she would go up and ask the driver if he were The Flag Man.

We stayed on the school property and watched. In a few minutes, Mrs. Aiken and the driver started walking across the parking lot and across the street. Indeed the driver was The Flag Man. He introduced himself. He was so genuinely kind to the students who were running up to him and hugging him. They thanked him for flying the flag and being a proud American. He thanked them for his letter. He promised to read it when he got back across the street. We took a couple of photos and promised to send him one. The students and I lined up to come back into the classroom for dismissal. We were all so touched by actually meeting The Flag Man and by his warmth and friendliness to us. He never showed any agitation about having his business meeting at the entrance to the old building interrupted. He really seemed as touched as we were.

The story seemed over, except that we knew the flag would continue flying each day thanks to a very nice man. The next day, however, a lady came to the door, quietly opened it, and asked if she could come in. She quietly introduced herself as being in charge of student teachers at a local university. She said she was in the building observing one of her student teachers, but had to come by and tell me how touched her husband had been with the letter to The Flag Man. He had been one of the business associates with whom The Flag Man was meeting at the old building when Mrs. Aiken interrupted. The Flag Man didn’t get to read his letter until later when the two of them returned to their office. She said that both men were so touched by the students’ letter. They said that they were going to hang the letter in their office so all could see and read. She said she was going to use the letter as an example to her student teachers for a real language arts lesson.

So many acts of compassion! So many people were blessed because one man cared so much about his country during the dark days after September 11! Indeed, we all are so fortunate to live in a country where freedom is such an integral part of our lives.

  • Written¬†during the week after 9/11

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