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National anthem brings teams together

High school sporting events are often inspirational. The athletes on the field, court, track or ice give it their all and are beyond fun to watch. For many of them, this is the pinnacle of their sports careers and they deserve our attention and respect. Seldom, however, does the crowd take the spotlight.

This is exactly what happened at a local game in my small town, but I believe it could happen anywhere, at any time. I'm just glad I got to be a part of it.

As is the custom, the national anthem is the traditional start to many high school activities. It puts a serious and thoughtful beginning to whatever game the players came to play and the crowd came to watch. As the anthem has made headlines recently, it makes most of us more cognizant of its meaning and how we choose to demonstrate our own participation in this established national practice.

We all have differing views on the recent headlines, which is our right, and I'm not going to address the anthem issues that have been in the news. But I do want to relate something that happened at a high school event I recently attended because it made me proud.

Before our game the anthem began. It was piped over a speaker system — a taped version, no real, live performance. But it was all good.

My husband and I were standing directly behind the flag. He stood with his right hand over his heart, as is his custom. I stood at attention, singing silently along to the words.

"Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light ..."

And then, right after, "through the perilous fight," the speaker system went unexpectedly silent.

You can imagine, the absence of sound in a situation like this feels huge. Nevertheless, I continued singing, albeit silently, just mouthing the words. (I have been told my voice is best left silent, unfortunately.) "O'er the ramparts we watched ..."

And then, softly, ever so softly, I heard voices in cadence with my mouthed lyrics. They were subdued at first, but gained momentum with each word. I joined their forces — as loud as I dared (given my bad voice and all).

"Were so gallantly streaming." This part was barely audible. And then things got louder.

"And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there ..." The crowd picked up where the sound system quit. It was nothing less than magical and miraculous and energizing.

By the end, the entire crowd was participating and it was one of the most powerful spur of the moment events I've had the opportunity to be a part of. We were from differing high schools, each hoping for our own team to win, but when it came down to the national anthem, we all joined forces and completed the chorus when the sound system went down.

I can't remember if our team won or lost that day, but I will forever remember the moment of the anthem, when we all came together and finished it together because we are Americans and that's what we felt in our hearts.

And whether you choose to stand, kneel or sit, it's moments like this that make it real, and make me proud to be a citizen of the greatest country I know.

Cloquet resident Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

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