When I heard about the Flag Ladies of Freeport, Maine I knew I had to photograph them. I saw their photos on-line and was impressed with their unique expression of patriotism. This past fall as the trees were beginning to turn, I grabbed my camera and flew to Boston where I rented a car and drove several hours to the hometown of JoAnn, Elaine, and Carmen.

Every Tuesday morning at 8:00 AM – in rain, shine or snow – the Freeport Flag Ladies each take the red, white and blue and walk up the block from their home. For an hour they stand on the corner of Main and School Street with their flags waving at passing vehicles. A small crowd gathers to participate, some with their own flags, others volunteering refreshments with steaming cups of coffee.

Cars honk and people roll down their windows and yell, “God bless America!” You can feel the vibrations in your chest as huge trucks blast their horns as they rumble down the road. Yellow school busses pass with dozens of children, their faces pressed against the windows.

The Flag Ladies explained to me how their ritual got started. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 the World Trade Center was destroyed. Elaine, a retired radiology instructor, wanted to express support for her country, so she grabbed a flag and walked to the corner. She asked two friends to commit to doing this every week for one year, and a decade later they are there each Tuesday morning.

“We are hoping that long after we are gone the children will wonder why those ladies were there,” they explained to me. “When you are doing something out of love and gratitude it touches people, and that stays with them.”

Sure, I love cookouts and fireworks on July 4th, but I never thought deeply about patriotism until the experience of living in Manhattan on 9/11. In recent years I’ve been traveling internationally to photograph aging, and this has shaped my perspective even more. It is easy to forget how good we have it in America, and each time I travel I eagerly look forward to the New York City skyline from the plane window.

The Freeport Flag Ladies have made patriotism their life’s mission. In the small town of Freeport they make people connect to their flag and country. The most serious part of their mission, the Flag Ladies told me, is to remind people of our history and that freedom is not free.

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Click here for the official website of the Freeport Flag Ladies.

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