Sunday, September 10, 2006

Freedom - A Tribute to 9/11

Freedom by David R. Darrow 7" x 5" (17.78cm x 12.7cm)
Oil on Panel SOLD Collection of Edward Leonard
Taunton, MA – USA

About This Painting

If you have been following my paintings for a while (at you know that I paint whatever inspires me... whatever has caught my heart and mind for at least the period of time it takes to create a new work.

This 5th Anniversary of 9/11 has kept this particular anniversary on the forefront of my mind, more so than last year or the year before for some reason. I am grateful that we have been safe on our soil for much longer than anyone could have promised back in 2001. I am grateful to God and to the men and women whose job it is to ensure and provide security for our nation, and who fight for the cause of Freedom abroad.

I don't think people from other countries and cultures can fully understand what our flag means to so many people here in America.

Most of the people that I have met who are citizens of other countries speak very fondly, even proudly, of their land. And I think they understand that we are proud of ours, and much of the reverence for our flag is sometimes mistaken to be American arrogance. Yeah, we could be a humbler people. But I am still proud to be from and live in America, "warts and all," as we say.

When my wife and I visited Washington DC in October of 2001, a month after what quickly came to be known as 9/11, we made time to go to the Smithsonian Museum that houses "Old Glory." This tattered and stained flag is just plain huge, and it is staggering to see the reverence shown to this old relic. It's stored in a monstrous room with a custom, rolling gantry that allows conservators to hover inches above it to repair and maintain it.

A Bit of History

We have our 9/11 now, and much of America will be flying our flags: our symbol of Freedom, our country and our sovereignty. But there was a famous 9/13 that is significant as well. Just shy of 200 years ago, in 1814, there was a 35-year-old lawyer who boarded a docked British ship to see if he could negotiate the release of an American prisoner. Britain was our enemy back then. Though the ship he boarded was reportedly flying a truce flag, he was forcibly detained on board as the other British ships in that harbor began an all-night barrage of cannon balls and missiles at nearby Fort McHenry. All he could do was watch in horror, but with hope.

In the morning, September 14th, in the dim and smoky light of dawn he was able to see the American Flag — the very same "Old Glory" now being reverently cared for at the Smithsonian — still flying at Fort McHenry. It was beaten badly, scarred and torn, burned and frail, but "the flag was still there."

On September 20, just six days later, moved by the the events of September 14, in which the British had dropped their assault and turned tail, he wrote a poem heralding the memory. Four months later, the British signed the Treaty of Ghent, thus ending the war.

Ironically, the poem was eventually set to the tune of a British drinking song, and later became our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. The poet/lawyer was Francis Scott Key.

I have seen tears run down the cheeks of 90-year-old veterans at the raising of our flag and the playing of that anthem. For many of us, the flag means much more than far-too-many will ever know. It's not about the country as much as it is about Freedom.

Long may it wave.

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Anonymous said...

After the Honor Guard's volley and the playing of Taps, the flag draped on the coffin is carefully removed, folded, and presented to the family as a symbol of a gratefull nation's thanks.

I have never flown the flag from my husband's casket; I could never so carefully and tightly refold it to fit inside its glass and wooden case.

God gave my husband and millions of others the opportunity to serve and preserve the freedoms that we so often take for granted.

May God continue to bless this nation and bring forth good from evil.

David R. Darrow said...

Wow! What a powerful story.

I agree... Americans take for granted our freedoms... even take advantage of our freedoms.

I am grateful for your husband's service and sacrifice.

Thanks for what you wrote.

Anonymous said...

Difficult to say something after this story, but I wanted to say that the American Flag (maybe the only one in France countryside--I'm french-)we bought in Billings MT in June is proudly dancing in the wind,above our front door, showing everybody around, that America is the only place we wanted to live, THE country of freedom with the greatest people in the world!
And even if I'm not a believer, I'm glad to say, my right hand on my heart: God bless America!

David R. Darrow said...


I admire your courage! I admit I do not know first-hand how your countrymen (and women) really feel about America. I hear on the news that we are generally not liked in most of Europe, but I don't generally expect to get the whole truth from the news, anyway.

I must say though that it is very touching to know that you are flying our flag today. I, for one, appreciate it! Thank you, from the bottom of my American heart! You honor us, and I am grateful!

As to being a believer or not, sometimes it's only a matter of what one senses is right. We hosted a French art student for a month in 2002, and she told me that she knew of no one who goes to church or temple in France -- that religion just isn't part of the culture. Maybe you just haven't been exposed to thoughts that you connect with at a spiritual level.

I would like to recommend a light, funny, but thoughtful book to you. Maybe the humor is exclusively "American Style" and you may not fully appreciate it, but the deeper thoughts are ones that have connected deeply with my soul.

I looked it up on Amazon France. Here is the link to a great book, written by a "regular fellow" named Don Miller: Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts On Christian Spirituality. I am not one to impose my own spiritual beliefs on anyone, but this book has some fresh thinking I think anyone could benefit from.

The Amazon America link is Blue Like Jazz.

Peter Yesis said...

beautifully written and painted.
Thank you for posting and remembering

Anonymous said...

Thank you David for wanting to share "blue like jazz" with me. I grew up in a funny family: a catholic mother and a (so so) communist father!(saved from a german concentration camp by the american army).I had faith and use to go to church every sunday when I was a kid, but nobody at that time wanted to answer my questions about God; then I became a "rebel" and a self harm person. My husband is english and grew up in a ultra christian baptist family...So we have very interesting conversations together! No problem on the spiritual side!
About the french people, they unfortunatly tend to follow the anti- America medias and I must say that I stopped fighting with the irreductibles, like you said ,I'm not one to impose my own belief, I'm now only wishing to live in America one day.
Thank you for your painting (you are the only painting a day painter (as far as I know) who did that tribute to 9/11. We went to ground zero in June and it was a very deeply moving experience.

Anonymous said...

Humble apologies to Peter Yesis I saw his thoughtful tribute to 9/11 a bit late.

David R. Darrow said...


You survived quite the mix of belief systems. Wow! (I can never figure out how people expect to raise their kids with "solid values" by raising them with parts from this one, parts from that one. The distilled message is that you can't settle down anywhere. That it's all flawed. But what about the possibility that there really is a single set of values that bring peace to your heart, and better your fellow man?)

I still think you'd enjoy Blue Like Jazz, because of its fresh approach and non-religious nature.

And I did get over to see Peter Yesis' 911 Tribute. It is outstanding in every way.