A City of Flags

Boston Strong, an event dedicated to Boston Marathon 2013 bombing victims

Boston is a city of flags

Many of the early flags of American history had their beginnings in Boston, and two of the most prominent flag historians, Admiral George Henry Preble and Dr. Whitney Smith, have called Boston home.  The Flag Research Center operated in Winchester—a Boston suburb—for more than half a century, and it was there that the North American Vexillological Association—the premier organization of flag scholars in the U.S. & Canada—was formed in 1967.  Yes, Boston is a city of flags.

Bomb explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon

A terrorist bomb explodes near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

An unthinkable attack unfolded amid flags near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  The first of two bombs, apparently placed alongside a display of international flags, exploded as runners neared completion of the twenty-six mile run.

These flags served as a reminder that marathon participants hailed not just from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or from the United States of America but from nations throughout the world.  As the two bombs detonated, spraying devastation amid shrapnel, the flags became a reminder that this was not an attack on the people of Boston, the population of Massachusetts or the citizens of the United States alone.  As with all terrorist attacks, the assault in Boston’s Copley Square was an attack on all humanity.

Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen also noted the significance of an attack to maim and kill centered amid a display of national flags.  In a column titled, “A Perfect Marathon Day, and then the Unimaginable,” Cullen wrote perceptively.

It is the one day of the year when the city is its most ­diverse, with people from so many other countries here to run those 26 miles from ­Hopkinton to the Back Bay.

And so it was alternately poignant and horrifying to watch as first responders frantically pulled metal barriers and the flags of so many different countries down into Boylston Street in a desperate rush to get to the dead and the injured on the sidewalk.

Those flags looked like victims, splayed on Boylston Street as the acrid smoke hung in the air.

In response, the flags in Boston and around the nation flew somberly at half-staff through the week.  The people of Boston do not mourn alone; we are all in this together.

Authorities declared that those responsible would be discovered, and that justice would be done.  Yet, all expected that the investigation would require weeks, months or even years to bear fruit.  Nevertheless, photographs taken by security cameras at the site, brought swift results when police posted pictures of the suspected bombers on the internet as they asked the public for help in identifying two men pictured in the first grainy images.  With more pictures taken by spectators’ cameras and even photos snapped by cellular phones, the two suspects were quickly identified and intense manhunt left one suspect dead while the second was arrested.  Through it all, Americans watched event unfold in televised coverage unimaginable even a few years earlier.  While some programs labeled reality TV have proven popular television fare, the hunt for two terrorist bombers proved to be reality TV in the truest sense.

Yes, Boston is a city of flags and as the citizens of the area and of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts cheered the police, who had performed so magnificently, they broke out flags to wave in their victory over a senseless terrorist act.  At the first Boston Red Sox game played after the manhunt ended, the crowd sang the Star- Spangled Banner with unusual passion, “and the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Please visit the Colonial Flag website for a great variety of U.S., state and international flags, flagpoles and accessories.

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