What so proudly we hailed

On four occasions a performance of the National Anthem genuinely, memorably moved me.
The first happened in 1991, ten days after the Gulf War launched. A Black Hawk helicopter flew over us as my sisters, my Dad and I made our way into Tampa Stadium. The well publicized fact that this would be the first Super Bowl to take place during wartime left my dad uncharacteristically cautious and he pointed out the nearest exits as we took our seats.
Then Whitney Houston’s powerful National Anthem swelled through the stadium and took away both our breath and our fear.
Nearly 10 years later, in honor of my dad, our daughter Katherine sang the National Anthem at Lambeau Field during the opening game ofthe 2001 Packer season. My dad’s number 77 jersey hung past her knees as she sang sweetly and with great concentration, an innocent 12-year old in the waning days of an equally innocent time. Two days later, 9/11 soberly ushered in a new era of patriotism and suspicion.
Katherine sang the National Anthem at Lambeau Field again five years later. She, like the nation she represented, had grown older and far more aware. Tightened stadium security made the experience more somber, and an adjusted NFL pregame routine meant the players stayed on the field for the song. The intervening years had brought respect for the anthem and the struggles it represents to a wary, proud nation.
Last year, my son Vinnie and fellow members of the Appleton North varsity choir sang the National Anthem before a high school football game. Players, fans, band members and statisticians gathered from all corners of the stadium and they sang in unison, young men on the cusp of military eligibility.
All four of those versions of the national anthem resonate for their purity of purpose and honest interpretation of some powerful words and images.

12-year old Katherine sang during the season opener in 2001.
(Photo courtesy Daniel Kramer)
Same song, same jersey, but a grown up singer and nation.
Pre-game at Appleton North in 2010.
Photo courtesy Mike Panzer

 

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