O say, can you see,
John Adams sat alone the night of July 2, 1776, writing to his
wife, Abigail. "The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable
epocha in the history of America." Over the next two days, Congress would
debate, edit and finally sign the Declaration of Independence. The world
would never be the same.
By the dawn's early light,
George Washington peered from his small boat on a frigid
Christmas night, 1777. He looked back at his weary, bone-cold soldiers, then
across the icy Delaware River. Soon, they would attempt a daring surprise
operation against Trenton. It would be a turning point in the War for
What so proudly we hailed
James Madison, relieved, affixed his name to the Constitution of
the United States. The date was Sept. 17, 1787, and the document Madison
signed would be the basis for a democratic republic, "a more perfect union."
At the twilight's last gleaming?
Praying "that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of
its beneficence," George Washington stepped down as president of the United
States with his Farewell Address in 1796, peacefully passing the mantle of
leadership to John Adams.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
Francis Scott Key stood aboard a ship 8 miles downriver from
Fort McHenry Sept. 13, 1814. He watched anxiously as British warships
pounded the fort. As dawn broke, the 40-foot flag over the fort billowed
majestically in the wind. Key excitedly spotted the flag, pulled out an
envelope and began to write.
Through the perilous fight,
Robert E. Lee stood behind his line, overlooking Gettysburg.
Sprawled across the field were countless bodies, Americans all, enemies in
life, brothers in death. As the sun set on July 2, 1863, President Lincoln
retired for the evening. The casualty statistics would not reach him for
hours, but the magnitude of death was stunning. The outcome of the Civil War
was very much in doubt.
O'er the ramparts we watched,
As freed slaves peeked over the barrier of slavery, Congress
adopted the Fifteenth Amendment on March 30, 1870, guaranteeing that "the
right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or
abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or
previous condition of servitude."
Were so gallantly streaming?
Ten-year-old Harry Shapiro stood on deck, his eyes fixed on the
Statue of Liberty. Having fled the pogroms of Russia, Shapiro later said
that seeing the Statue was the greatest thrill of his life. The year was
1905, and two years later a record 1,285,349 immigrants flooded into the
United States of America.
And the rockets' red glare,
"Above their wreath-strewn graves we kneel/They kept the faith
and fought the fight./Through flying lead and crimson steel/They plunged for
Freedom and the Right," penned Joyce Kilmer. At the age of 33, Kilmer
volunteered for service in World War I. He was killed in France on July 30,
The bombs bursting in air,
On Aug. 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
President Harry Truman stated: "Let there be no mistake; we shall completely
destroy Japan's power to make war." By dropping the bomb, Truman effectively
ended World War II and saved hundreds of thousands of American lives.
Gave proof through the night
Sgt. William Port and his platoon moved swiftly through the
undergrowth of Vietnam Jan. 12, 1968. Suddenly, a burst of heavy gunfire
began, forcing the platoon back. Despite being wounded by the gunfire, Port
dragged a downed friend to the platoon perimeter. When an enemy grenade was
thrown into their bunker, Port leapt on it. Left for dead, taken as a POW,
he died of starvation and his wounds.
That our flag was still there
As the smoke, dust and flame rose from mid-Manhattan, three
firefighters stood atop the rubble of the World Trade Center, amid the
gravesites of thousands, and raised an American flag. Two hundred miles
south, rescue workers lowered a flag over the side of the Pentagon. It was
Sept. 11, 2001.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
"The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is
certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and
we know that God is not neutral between them." -- President George W. Bush,
Sept. 20, 2001
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?