By Rob Webber
The roar of applause upon raising the American flag gave me goose bumps up my entire back, finishing at the base of my neck. Hiking Mt. Moosilauke to raise the American flag on 9/11 as part of the Flags on the 48 program, I wasn’t sure what emotions I would feel. I anticipated feeling patriotism, some sadness, and being filled with very reflective thoughts. However I did not anticipate the tremendous pride I would feel being part of a team that displayed a tribute to our fallen heroes of September 11. The jubilation of the – I’m guessing – one hundred other hikers as we raised Old Glory on the summit was a tremendous feeling I’ll never forget.
We had a terrific team of hikers on September 11, 2011, with each member carrying part of the flagpole, flag or rigging to the summit. Once there, we each took a job we thought we could execute well – assembling the pole, deploying anchors in the rock or preparing the lines. Given the size of our flag (6’ x 10’) and typical White Mountain winds, we secured our monument with no less than seven lines. I think it could have withstood 50 mph winds(!), but fortunately we only experienced a fraction of that. In fact, while the winds at noon were fairly strong (enough to make our flag fly very majestically), by the end of our stay the winds were not even strong enough to make the Stars and Stripes fly at full attention.
There certainly was some sadness during our tribute. Thinking of the reason we were there is enough to make the toughest drill sergeant misty. We had some wonderful remarks by people who had special connections to 9/11. Those were excellent speeches, but I couldn’t help but wiping away the start of a tear thinking of all the people we lost ten years ago, and how some of their close relatives were with us today.
One feeling I did not anticipate (but probably should have) was the warm camaraderie we shared with so many hikers we met for the first time while on Moosilauke. Hiking is an activity which lends itself so well to meeting new friends and sharing experiences, and this setting only enhanced that feeling. Our commitment flying the flag on the summit from noon until 2:00 pm made conversing with people easier. I can’t imagine we would have spent close to three hours on the summit had it not been for the Flags on the 48 program, but in doing so it forced us to relax, meet so many new people, share special experiences, and have long conversations about a myriad of topics – not just the two or three minute typical chat you might have with someone in that case.
My day on Moosilauke was one filled with emotions I expected and didn’t expect, and gave me memories I will have forever.