September 28, 2020

10 years later, Maine’s flag ladies still waving

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The Freeport Flag Ladies, wave to cars in Freeport, Maine. The women, who have waved the American flag every Tuesday morning since 9/11, have dedicated their lives to encouraging the American spirit and supporting of U.S. troops in the war against terrorism.

FREEPORT, Maine (AP) — Three days after 9/11, Elaine Greene held an American flag above her on a busy street corner in this small Maine town. Since then, she and two other women have waved the flag on the same corner for an hour every Tuesday in honor of America’s service personnel and to show that the American spirit is alive and kicking.

Changed forever by the 2001 terror attacks, Greene, JoAnn Miller and Carmen Footer have devoted their lives to inspiring others through the flag. Dressed in stars-and-stripes shirts, they are a familiar sight, proudly holding their 3-foot-by-5-foot flags on poles as motorists honk their horns and shout words of encouragement.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the Freeport Flag Ladies, as they are known, have organized three days of vigils, concerts, a laser light show, a parade and other events. For two hours Sunday morning, they will be in their usual place, holding flags while flanked by Maine’s two U.S. senators, a U.S. representative, the governor and the head of the Maine National Guard.

Before 9/11, the three weren’t particularly patriotic. But they’ve come to see the good that can come from even a seemingly small gesture like proudly holding the U.S. flag.

Greene wasn’t even sure if picking up a flag was the right thing to do on Sept. 14, 2001, when President George W. Bush asked Americans to hold candlelight vigils. But when she did, she saw the strain on people’s faces melt away as they drove by, beeped their horns and yelled out “God Bless America.”

“You knew then that you could do something,” Greene said this week in the house she shares with Miller and Footer. “You knew then that the American people realized within their own spirit that we’re going to be OK, we’re going to get through this and that the American spirit wasn’t dead. It just got injured a little bit.”

Since then, the women have showed up every Tuesday — the attacks took place on a Tuesday — at the corner of Main and School streets with flags in hand. They haven’t missed a day, braving hot summer sun, blizzards, nor’easters and thunderstorms with lightning.

Greene once checked herself out of a hospital following surgery against a doctor’s orders so she’d be there, even if it was in a wheelchair. The doctor wanted her stay at the hospital for six days, but she left after three.

“I didn’t have six days. Tuesday was coming up,” she said.

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