SOMERS, N.Y. - When a microburst suddenly snapped the flagpole in front of the historic Elephant Hotel on a stormy spring day, sending Old Glory plunging toward the ground, Patricia Kalba sprang into action.
The intrepid town clerk, who with other Somers employees watched aghast from her office as the 40-foot pole fell on May 15, braved the heavy winds and rain to unhook the star-spangled banner and the town’s POW/MIA flag and rush them both safely indoors.
Unfortunately, the wild weather rescue was not preserved for posterity.
“Everyone was screaming; no one took a video,” Kalba said at a recent meeting of the Town Board held–coincidentally, but appropriately–on Flag Day.
Her efforts drew not a few humorously appreciative remarks from council members, such as “If that’s not patriotism, I don’t know what is,” “This is how urban legends are made,” and “Patty the hero!”
Kalba modestly shrugged off the board’s praise, saying that, while obviously concerned about saving the flags, she was more worried that they would fly onto the windshield of a passing car and cause an accident.
Some folks still believe that the red, white and blue has to be destroyed if it touches the ground.
But according to general flag etiquette, as posted on the American Legion’s website, that is not the case.
While the flag should be carefully protected from getting dirty or damaged, it does not have to be trashed if it hits the turf, the Legion said.
“As long as the flag remains suitable for display, even if washing or dry-cleaning (which is an acceptable practice) is required, the flag may continue to be displayed,” the rules state.
To display a flag, one needs something to hang it on.
And so, the Town Board voted on Thursday, June 14, to approve the purchase of a new fiberglass pole for $2,590.
The normally mundane governmental proceeding was duly recorded–this time for future generations–by Kalba, the town clerk and, thankfully, sometimes savior of our nation’s symbol.