Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Journey Begins: The National 9.11 Flag and Greensburg, KS

It starts here, in Greensburg, Kansas, a town of 1800 people in 2007 and now, according to the 2010 census, a town with a population under half that.

The tornado in action (Photo:

On May 4, 2007 at 9:45 p.m., Greensburg, Kansas was hit by a category E5 tornado, the most damaging and dangerous kind of tornado. The Greensburg, KS tornado had a width of 1.7 miles and traveled speeds of up to 205-210 mph.
The Greensburg tornado on a NOAA map.
E5 tornadoes are a freak of nature. Deadly and destructive, they aren't necessarily a regular part of the tornado season. 

1974 holds the record for the most E5 tornadoes: There were 7. 

In 2011, there have been 6 E5 tornadoes. The Joplin, KS tornado disaster on May, 22 was an E5 tornado and is considered to be the single most deadly tornado on record. (See the CBS News story about the Joplin tornado here.)

The entire town was destroyed: all businesses, all schools, and all churches – gone.

Greensburg after the tornado (Photo: Jaime Oppenheimer/ Wichita Eagle
By 9:33 p.m. when the tornado had moved on, 10 people had died and one had sustained injuries that would become fatal.  

The victims are Claude Hopkins, 79; Larry Hoskins, 51; Evelyn Kelly, 75; David Lyon, 48; Colleen Panzer, 77; Ron Rediger, 57; Harold Schmidt, 77; Sarah Tackett, 72; Beverly Volz, 52; Richard Fry, 62; and Max McColm, 77.

A flag survives the Greensburg tornado. (Photo: Mike Theiss©

Rebuilding ...
Given the storms of the 2011 season, many may not remember the Greensburg tornado and its devastation but someone affiliated with the New York Says Thank You Foundation, one of the organizations behind the National 9.11 Memorial flagdid remember.

The mission of the New York Says Thank You Foundation is to:
"commemorate the love and support given to New Yorkers by Americans from all across the country in the days, weeks, and months following 9/11, by sending volunteers from New York City each year on the 9/11 Anniversary in order to help rebuild communities around the United States affected by natural or man-made disasters." 

The new pavilion (Photo:
One year after the devastation, the Foundation sent 200 volunteers from New York to help rebuild Greensburg, Kansas. They participated in what has been called "the largest barn raising in the country." They were joined by the Kansas 4-H Foundation, the South Central Kansas Tornado Recovery Organization, and the Kiowa Country EMA to rebuild a 14,000 square-foot barn, the Main Pavilion, of the Greensburg 4-H County Fairground.

Along with the rebuilding came the National 9.11 Memorial Flag, a 32'x17' giant American flag found flying from the scaffolding of a nearby building undergoing renovation on 90 West Street at the time the Twin Towers collapsed. 

Only 25 stars ...
The flag had only 25 stars left on it. It was blackened from smoke damage and shredded by all the debris in the air. After watching this flag for several months, Construction Supervisor Charlie Vitchers (Nine Months at Ground Zero) sent a crew over to take the flag down. Vitchers figured he would "retire" it, meaning to give it a ceremonial burning. 

The thing is, Vitchers couldn't bring himself to destroy this flag, this giant survivor. Instead, he decided to put it in a bag and save it.

When the New York Says Thank You Foundation was organized to travel the country with the flag and bring the spirit of renewal with it (one report says the idea is the brainchild of a 5-year old child), no one was planning on patching the flag ... until they came to Greensburg, the first stop on this journey of renewal. 

At Greensburg they decided not only to repair the National 9.11 Memorial Flag, but to repair it with patches made from American flags that had survived the Greensburg tornado.

And so they did.
The first patches were made in Greensburg, KS (Photo: Jeff Parness)

Let it fly!

The last word ...
Listen to State of the Re:Union episode here.
NPR's State of the Re-Union: A Town Re-Invents Itself from Scratch is about remembering the sounds of houses ripping apart, the sight of the devastation, the experience of surviving a 15 minute event that changed so many lives so completely. It is about surviving. You can listen to this program here.

Let It Fly!

To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Walking on the Moon!

Forty-two years ago on July 20, 1969, mankind accomplished a wondrous thing: "we" walked on the moon. When Neil Armstrong took those first moon steps, we walked with him.

Click this link to see a video of that first moonwalk:
Neil Armstrong walking on the moon (Photo: NASA)
Facts about the moon walk...
Sources: and

1. The Apollo 11 trip to the moon took 3.5 days.
It included 3 astronauts: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Collins was the only one who did not walk on the moon; he managed the controls from inside the command module, the Columbia.

2. When Armstrong and Aldrin landed the landing ship, the Eagle, on the moon, they landed with only 20 seconds left of fuel.

3. The American flag is not the only thing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left on the moon: The astronauts also left "mementos for fallen peers."

4. The landing was highlighted with alarm bells going off in Apollo 11's command module because of the intense stream of data the on-board computers were receiving. It was "just distracting," said Aldrin.

5. The astronauts spent 21 hours on the moon and 3 weeks in quarantine upon their return.

6. The command module, the Columbia, is on display in Washington, DC at the Air and Space Museum. Part of the Eagle, the lunar lander, was jettisoned into space and part crashed into the moon.

7. Though the United States was the first country to put men on the moon, the Soviet Union was the first to send a satellite into space (the Sputnik, October, 1957), the first to send animals into space, and the first to send a man into space.

8. The very first animal in space was Laika, a dog. (Laika did not survive.)

9. In April, 1961, the Soviets sent the first man into space. In May, 1961, the United States sent the first American into space: Alan Shepherd. The race to the moon had begun.

10. The last person to walk on the moon was Eugene Cernan of the Apollo 17, the last manned space craft to travel to the moon. Cernan's colleague, pilot Ronald Evans, also walked on the moon. The Apollo 17 landed on the moon in December, 1972.

Let It Fly!

To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Idaho: The Only State Seal Designed by a Woman

What do a warrior, a pregnant explorer, a screen siren, a WWII flying ace, the host of "Truth or Consequences", and an Olympic gold medalist skier have in common?
Idaho! err, sort of!
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
Sacajawea (National Archives)
Lana Turner (production still)
Flying Ace "Pappy" Boyington (USMC)

TV host Ralph Edwards is the nephew of Emma Edwards, designer of the Idaho State Seal (Photo:
Olympic medalist, Peekabo Street (Photo:

At some point in their lives, they called Idaho home. Born and raised there or traveling through and deciding to stay to make it home, Idaho is special to them. Well, everyone except for Ralph Edwards who originally is from Colorado. His aunt, however, Emma Edwards, came to visit friends and ended up staying, falling in love, and adding to the history of her adopted state. Nice!

Idaho is a Wild West state that grew out of a territory in 1863, shortly before the end of the Civil War. In 1890, it became the 43rd state. This is the same year science decides there definitely is a cause/ effect relationship between disease and germs, that artist Vincent van Gogh dies, that Ellis Island receives its first immigrant, and that a new labor union is formed – the United Mine Workers of America – a union that definitely will be noticed by this fledgling mining state.

About the Idaho state flag

Miss Emma Edwards, c. 1890
Idaho formalized its flag in 1907 with a design built around the state seal. The Idaho State Seal is unique as it is the only state seal to be designed by a woman. Really? you may ask. Really.

The seal by Silas Cochran, 1863
About the state seal
 Originally, it is thought that a clerk working in the Secretary of   State's office designed the first state seal. The clerk's name is Silas D.  Cochran and the design of this seal if formal. It bears the legend "the Union" at a time when the Civil War was still fresh in people's minds. A bold American eagle is holding a shield that comprises images of  mountains with a sunrise behind them. 

The seal by Gov. Caleb Lyon, 1866
  Despite its classicism, it   apparently was not a hit with everyone for in 1866, Governor Caleb Lyon redesigned the seal himself. Lyon's design features two women, one with a staff in one hand and the flag tied around her hips. An elk's antlers rise above a shield and the legend, "Salve" is at the bottom. In Latin, salve means hello. In English, the word means a curative ointment. We do not know what Lyon intended. Suffice to say, this seal was in and out of use until 1890. 

In 1890, the year of statehood, a national contest was held for the design of the Idaho State Seal. The prize was $100 which was a lot in those days. At the time, Miss Emma Sarah Etine Edwards, the daughter of the former governor of Missouri had finished art school in the East and was visiting friends on her way to California. She never made it to California as she fell in love with Idaho and wanted to stay there and teach art – which is exactly what she did. 

Miss Edwards' painting (State Historical Society archives)
From Miss Edwards' version of events, she interviewed as many legislators as possible to get the inside track on what they thought the seal should represent. Given her family background, she had access to the local politicos – and she used it. (The legislators were also miners and they all told her to include a miner in the seal but don't make his clothes red. Make them brown. So she did.) 

Miss Edwards' seal won the competition and became the official state seal in 1891. 

Her original painting for the seal is in the Idaho State Historical Society.
As for Miss Edwards, she married and became Mrs. Emma Edwards Green.

It's official ... until 1957
The seal, as designed by Mrs. Green, includes a woman (a virginal icon representing both liberty as well as suffrage) and a man (the miner). The elk horns and the mountains remained from Gov. Lyon's design. Above the mountains, however, Mrs. Green included the light from a sunrise. Above the shield is the legend (in Latin), "Esto Perpetua," meaning, in perpetuity or, more aptly, Idaho forever.

The Idaho State Seal has not changed that much since Mrs. Green first designed it but it was "updated" in 1957. Same design but the images were clarified to better illustrate the state's chief natural resources and its chief industries of agriculture, mining and forestry.

The revisions, by the way, were done by a man: Mr. Paul B. Evans. Technically, this design is the official state seal (

But what about the state flag?
The Idaho state flag with its seal
In 1907, the state legislature adopted the official state flag, a field of dark blue with the state seal centered in the middle. Underneath it is a banner with "Idaho". A gold fringe encircles the entire flag.

And what about that WWII flying ace, Pappy Boyington?
Well, he's a former U.S. Marine fighter pilot and the original Black Sheep squadron leader. He shot down 26 planes before he was shot down and survived the end of the war in a Japanese POW camp. He is both legend and hero.

To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Wyoming Flag: A Wild West State of Mind

Cowboy at sunset, Shell WY (Photo by Joe Restuccia III)
"The Cowboy State" is just one of the nicknames for the state of Wyoming. It also is known as the "Equal Rights State" because Wyoming, the land of cowboys and cowgirls, granted women the right to vote and to hold public office in 1869 while it was still a territory – over two decades before it became a state.

One of the largest states in the Union with nearly 97,914 square miles, Wyoming's population remains, according to the 2010 census, barely over half a million (

Cowboy & Cowgirl, Big Horn, WY (Photo: Joe Restuccia III)
Another distinction: It is one of the few states whose flag was designed by a woman: Mrs. A.C. Keyes, the former Miss Verna Keays. The design, like the flag of Arkansas, is the result of a statewide contest sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

During the summer of 1916...
Miss Keays returned home to Buffalo, Wyoming. A recent graduate of the Chicago Art Institute, she entered the contest after encouragement from her father, and some procrastination on her own part as a friend was visiting from Ohio and her friend "made an excellent excuse for me to do everything but draw."
Mrs. A.C. Keyes, 1960 (Photo: Casper Journal
In her own words from a Feb. 15, 1960 interview with the Casper Journal, Mrs. Keyes remembers the story like this:

"As the closing date for the competition approached and my father's persuasion increased I knew it was time to heed him.

"Silently I had been pondering over the various possibilities for the design and was awakened from a sound sleep one night and there appeared to me a clear, complete and perfect design for the flag. I wakened my friend in great excitement, telling her I knew exactly what I would draw. She was uninterested and sleepily mumbled something incoherent about not caring. The following morning I drew the design as it had been revealed to me that night; such inspiration reaffirms the true Source of all Creation...

"Several days after I had submitted the design, Dr. Hebard telephoned from Sheridan to announce the decision of the Judges. There had been thirty-seven designs entered in the contest and the one I had submitted had been given first place. ... A technical description of the flag was then written and this drafted into a bill for presentation to the Fourteenth State Legislature."

On January 31, 1917, her design became the official stateflag for Wyoming.

A buffalo branded with the state seal
Mrs. Keyes describes the flag's symbolism in simple but eloquent terms:

"The Great Seal of the State of Wyoming is the heart of the flag. The seal on the bison represents the truly western custom of branding. The bison was once 'Monarch of the Plains.' The red border represents the Red Men, who knew and loved our country long before any of us were here; also, the blood of the pioneers who gave their lives in reclaiming the soil.
"White is an emblem of purity and uprightness over Wyoming. Blue, which is found in the bluest blue of Wyoming skies and the distant mountains, has through the ages been symbolic of fidelity, justice and virility.
"And finally the red, white and blue of the flag of the State of Wyoming are the colors of the greatest flag in all the world, the Stars and Stripes of the United States of America."

Wyoming became the 44th state on July 10, 1890. Let it fly!

Wyoming's state flag and "branding" state seal
Let It Fly!

To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Declaration of Independence: Words Heard Round the World

Vintage post card of Lady Liberty and the flag.
Words heard round the world.
That's it. That's our national mission statement – a document that says down with tyrants; that says citizens have the right to choose their government – and the responsibility to change it when that government no longer does its job.

And then, just to clear the air of any confusion about what constitutes a "tyrant," there are two pages of itemized abuse.

It's a good read.

Restoring the Declaration
Keeping it alive is our responsibility. Keeping it in physical condition belongs to the National Archives. Check out this video about restoring the Declaration of Independence.

A hand-written copy by Mr. Jefferson
And here is a link to an early hand-written draft of the Declaration, written in Jefferson's own hand! It is part of the collection at Princeton University. It includes a link to a typed, 7 page version of the document which is easier to read and still includes all the notes from the original.
You don't have to read it. You can listen!
To hear the annual reading aloud of this document by the NPR staff of Morning Edition. Don't want to read it aloud yourself? think it might be kinda dull? Fair enough. But check this out. It might change your mind about those words heard round the world.

Do you want a copy of the Declaration? Your personal copy is a click away.

Happy Independence Day!

Let It Fly!
To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

Photo by Donald Miralle, Getty Images

July 4: The Rainy Day List of Movies

Star gazing – the patriotic celluloid kind!
So it's July 4 and you've got the day off. Friends and family coming over. Food is, uh, bending the table. And it is pouring outside. Got lightening and thunder? Great storm but kind of a highly improbable day for fireworks.

 Plan B: Sign in to Netflix and move the party inside!

We couldn't limit ourselves to just a Top 10 list of July 4 movies, so here's the skinny of some great films to feel patriotic by.  And if you are wondering why we included a horse story, then you haven't seen Sea Biscuit, a story about American spirit at its best.

* Gutts and Glory
Scene from The Great Escape (production still)
 1. The Great Escape
1963. Not rated.
The then-not-so-famous author James Clavell wrote the screenplay. Pretty cool! Starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough. Unbelievably, it did not win any Oscars.

2. A Few Good Men
1992. R.
Starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland, Jack Nicholson.

3. Air Force One
1997. R.
Starring Harrison and Glenn Close.

4. Courage Under Fire
1996. R.
Directed by Edward Zwick. Starring Meg Ryan, Denzel Washington and Lou Diamond Phillips.

5. Men of Honor
2000. R.
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro and Charlize Theron. This is based on the true story of Carl Brashear, the Navy's first African-American diver.

* Romance 
(includes some guns along with the romance)

Top Gun (production still)
 1. Top Gun
1986. PG.
Starring Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis.

2. The American President
1995. PG-13.
Starring Michael Douglas, Annette Benning and  Martin Sheen.

3. Pearl Harbor
2001. PG-13.
Starring Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale and Josh Hartnett.

* Family Fun
Sea Biscuit (production still)
 1. Sea Biscuit
2003. PG-13.
Starring Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, and Elizabeth Banks.

2. National Treasure
2004. PG.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Diane Kruger and Jon Voight. This is an adventure centering around a mystery related to the Declaration of Independence.

3. National Treasure II: Book of Secrets
2007. PG.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Diane Kruger and Jon Voight. This sequel is about President Lincoln's assassination.

4. Independence Day
1996. PG-13.
Starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and the scene stealing Mary McDonnell.

* Any excuse for these classics ...
 1. 1776
1972. PG.
Based on a Pulitzer prize winning musical and starring Ken Howard, Blythe Danner, and Howard da Silva as Ben Franklin.

 2. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
1939. Not rated.
Directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart. If you have never seen this movie, maybe it's time.

3. All the President's Men
1976. PG.
Based on the events surrounding Watergate and President Nixon's resignation from office. Starring Dustin Hoffman as Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein and Robert Redford as Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

4. Patton
1970. PG.
Based on the military personna of General Patton and starring George C. Scott in the title roll. It won 7 Oscars.

5. Yankee Doodle Dandy
1942. Not rated.
Based on the life of George M. Cohan, the song writer and composer who authored many of the patriotic songs we take for granted: Over There, It's a Grand Old Flag, etc. Starring James Cagney in an Oscar winning performance (one of 3 Oscars the film won).

* Documentary Bound
 1. John Adams
This award-winning HBO mini series about the lawyer, the revolutionary and our second president, John Adams, stars Paul Giamatti in the title role. Laura Linney stars asAdams' beloved wife, Abigail Adams. The series won an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

2. The Revolution
This is a 10-part documentary series by The History Channel that is narrated by Kelsey Grammer. It includes reenactments of key battles.

3. Thomas Jefferson: View From the Mountain
In this documentary, Edward Hermann is the voice of Thomas Jefferson. Also includes Danny Glover and Sissy Spacek. This documentary explores the complexities of Jefferson's personality, his private conflicts versus his public personna. Specifically, it delves into his history with the slave Sally Hemmings.

4. Ben Franklin
A PBS mini series starring Colm Feore and Blair Brown. (For a list of all of Franklin's inventions, click here.)

5. Dolley Madison
This historical documentary (history presented in costume with historians insight) is produced by PBS' American Experience. True, Dolley Madison was not a contemporary of the Founding Fathers but she is considered our "first" First Lady, not least because she defended her home against the sacking of Washington, DC by the Brits. She kept her cool and grabbed a portrait of Gen. Washington on her way out so it would not fall into enemy hands.

Let It Fly!

To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

July 4 Menus: Some Culinary Stars

What makes for a great July 4?
Here's the recipe:

* good friends

* good grilling  (recipes below)

* good flag cake – with lots of berries! (recipes below)

* good fireworks (although, we can say from experience that a fiery sunset will do in a pinch)

We searched for the tastiest, tried and true recipes from experts you can rely on, with instructions you can follow. So grab your stars and stripes apron. It is time to fire up the grill!

1. Grilled Corn with Chipotle Butter
Ever tried grilled corn
If not, it' time! This spicy version with chipotle butter is from BonAppetit but you can just grill corn in its husk for a steamed and slightly smoky result. It's delicious, especially now with farm fresh summer corn.

2. Orange Molasses Grilled Chicken

Also from Bon Appetit, a simple grilled chicken with the sweet and tart taste of citrus. Perfect for summer!

3. Grillin' Gone Wild: NPR's Melting Pot Grill
Want to celebrate culinary diversity American style? Check out NPR's Melting Pot Grill. There are recipes for ribs, salmon, chicken skewers, lamb burgers – with flavors that span the globe. Ethnic home cooking American style! Oh yeah!

Korean BBQ Kalbi (butterflied short ribs)

Indian tandoori barbeque salmon
Chilean clams and chorizo
Syrian kebab or lamb burgers


And what goes with good food? 
Good stories. Check out the article that comes the recipes. It's all about family making new traditions with the best from the old ones. 

Japanese barbeque yakitori skewers

4. Grilling Central's Top Grill Recipes
Not sure about grilling or barbecuing? Check out these tips from the pros – with videos – from The FoodNetwork.

Ready for dessert?
Here comes the flag cake, the cupcakes and the custard!

1. Classic Flag Cake (with a how-to video!)
This flag cake comes from Ina Garten, the BarefootContessa. It's a classic from the Food Network.

Just want the recipe? 
Here it is in extra large print.

2. Flag cupcakes

These July 4 cupcakes are easy to make and the decoration is laid out there for you or open to your own interpretation. Do-it-yourself with room for your own twist? This recipe must come from MarthaStewart!

3. Flag custard tart
 This tart stars a white balsamic custard in tart form and your favorite berries. It's a beautiful classic from Bon Appetit. Nice!

Want to make this July 4 extra special?
* Get a copy of the Declaration ofIndependence to read aloud! 
* Listen to Ray Charles singing "America, the Beautiful"
* And in case of rain, check our blog for great July 4 movies.

Have a great holiday!