When I was a little girl I used to imagine my birthday was the reason we celebrated Flag Day. After all, that was what kids did – embellish and exaggerate the importance of their own special day for cake and gifts. I have grown in my patriotism as an adult and suddenly other than getting older, birthdays have little significance in my life.
This June 14th Flag Day felt unlike anything I have witnessed in all my birth years. Celebrating the unfurling of the historic flag, recognizing the faces of townspeople who joined in the holding of the hem, and especially looking down and seeing my father at the very bottom of the ladder brought me joy that I have not felt or recognized in a long time.
At 10:30 a.m. I parked at the Town Hall and I skipped across the street as a police officer stopped traffic for pedestrians. I saw hands motioning from the crowd as if to say ‘walk a little faster’. Realizing I was the photographer they were waiting for, it suddenly became clear to me that the giant ladder truck was in fact where I was headed for the official flag shoot. I believe my knees were audibly knocking together.
The huge lawn at Pope’s Tavern Senior Center was packed with several hundred residents and their energy could be felt around me.
Halifax Fire Chief Jason Viveiros and Captain Jeff Couzzo met me at the lip of the driveway and said they were ready for me.
I asked to use the ladies room as a priority (not to delay my ascent) logically, there were no bathrooms at 78 feet up in the air.
Firefighter Rich Ferguson strapped me into a waist harness that would fasten me inside the bucket in the Tower 1 Fire Engine. He kindly reminded me that if I fell out the ground would catch me.
My nerves suddenly reminded me that I was actually not a fan of heights, but I quickly composed myself, said a prayer (caught on camera by Captain Cuozzo) and climbed the truck, stepped in the bucket and they hooked me in. As we rose up higher over the crowd the bucket shook, and I instantly felt like the little sister shouting at her older brother at the top of a Ferris wheel ride. “Stop rocking the bucket” went through my head as I zoomed in, altered manual settings and dismounted lenses. I kept focused on the crowd below and felt my natural state of joy holding my camera. I realized I was smiling ear to ear without fear of dropping to my death. OK. Truthfully, the thought did quickly pass through my brain.
Watching the flag unfurling from the elevated point of view was mesmerizing as the colors of each star reflected the sun. My eyes were drawn to the brightest of whites, the stars set against the background of blue with the rays dancing on the fabric. Everything appeared so vivid. The stripes of red and blue rippled as the wind blew underneath the patriotic drapery. I could hear the muffled sounds from below as children began to duck under the flag’s enormity changing sides and reappearing.
As I captured the event I muttered a lot. I process out loud at times and this aided in guiding Firefighter Ferguson which direction he needed to steer us to and fro over the crowd. My thoughts included: how fantastically amazing the occasion was, I wondered how heavy the flag felt, and quickly blocked the thought that my camera equipment could topple to the ground.
I imagine with the excitement and visual stimulation what I see behind the lens can be compared to how some people feel eating a homemade piece of molten chocolate cake. Utter satisfaction mixed with natural curiosity of capturing the whole story unfolding in camera before my eyes.
As a writer and photographer I see and feel things with my entire body when I shoot a scene. I also watch for expressions, patterns, shadows, and colors that pop but oftentimes it is simply my lens capturing a form of translation- the smiles and emotions I see before me.
After my feet landed on Halifax town soil and I realized what I had accomplished, a continuous stream of pure exhilaration poured through my veins for hours. I shared photos, and even took a “selfie” from the top of the town. Celebrating my birthday this year was done at the most fantastic view as I looked down over the First Congregational Church, Town Hall and was nearly eye to eye with the blue water tower.
Through my lens this week I witnessed a historical moment where hands held, supported and honored our nation’s flag celebrating Flag Day and the true meaning of the freedoms we are allotted as Americans.