For the better part of a decade, Jill Crowther-Peters has portrayed the widowed seamstress who stitched the Star-Spangled Banner, but on Thursday she had the chance to really feel what it was like to be her.
Crowther-Peters, dressed as 19th-century flag maker Mary Pickersgill, stopped to savor the moment as she helped darn three threads from the original banner into a 30-foot American flag that flew over Ground Zero in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
She was one of several hundred who marked Flag Day in Baltimore by gathering to marry a piece of the banner that Pickersgill was commissioned by the Army to make for the War of 1812 with the National 9/11 Flag. The threads had been stored in a container.
The event at the Flag House & Star-Spangled Banner Museum, two blocks east of the Inner Harbor, was one of dozens in the city to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the war, during which the British attacked Fort McHenry. The Star-Spangled Sailabration is expected to draw 1 million people before it ends Tuesday.
Crowther-Peters said she has often wondered what Pickersgill thought when she learned that Francis Scott Key had written his famous poem, which would later become America's national anthem, at the sight of the flag she'd sewn.
"I am sure she felt a great deal of pride," Crowther-Peters said. "To be the creator of such an inspiration is very humbling. I want people to take away the fact that whatever they do, whatever they think, whatever they say, something will influence another person, who influences another person, who may do something great in history.
"History has a strange way of connecting such disparate people and putting them together."
Like Crowther-Peters, 10-year-olds Jamie Stone and Serenity Hammrich were feeling a full-circle moment Thursday. The girls traveled from Tucson, Ariz., to help sew the threads from the Star-Spangled Banner into the National 9/11 Flag.
Jamie and Serenity were best friends with Christina-Taylor Green, the little girl born on Sept. 11, 2001, who was killed in the shooting about two years ago that targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The National 9/11 Flag was flown at Christina-Taylor's funeral.
"We think that Christina is with us now," Serenity said. "She stands with us all the time. She watches over us."
As Christina-Taylor had hoped for herself, the girls want to work in politics when they grow up. Jamie says she might want to be president one day.
Politicians, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, gathered for the Sailabration's official welcome ceremony at the Harborplace Amphitheatre. There, the dignitaries exchanged gifts with representatives from 12 nations, including Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark and Japan.
"We're delighted to showcase the best of Baltimore to you," Rawlings-Blake said. "The commemoration of the War of 1812 is a celebration of the spirit of our great city. It is a story that we are proud of. I hope it inspires everyone."
The day's festivities also included the Pause for the Pledge at Fort McHenry, a tribute to the Pledge of Allegiance with the presentation of a proclamation signed by President Barack Obama.
Earlier Thursday, American flags snapped in the wind off Annapolis as the Coast Guard tall ship Eagle made its run up the Chesapeake Bay to take its place near the Inner Harbor's Pier 5.
Aboard were Tommey Meyers and his son, James, Arnold residents who had both been on the Coast Guard tall ship Eagle before Thursday — just not together.
The elder Meyers last stood on the deck in 1992, when he served as operations officer and his wife was pregnant with James. The younger man, who graduated from Broadneck High School, is a member of the Coast Guard Academy's Class of 2015.
Tommey Meyers, academy Class of 1986, quickly made himself at home. "It's remarkably the same all these years later," he said, before pointing out, tongue in cheek, that his son has a more comfortable bunk, better personal storage space and more modern navigational equipment.
James Meyers said he was at the throttle Wednesday as the Eagle came up the bay, and he got a kick out of pointing out local landmarks.
"I was from here less than a year ago," he said, pointing at the green shoreline and his old neighborhood. "Being able to come here now as a member of the Eagle crew is great."
Just about noon Thursday, the Navy's Blue Angels arrived in town low and fast, diverting everyone's attention from the harbor full of colorful tall ships and brawny naval vessels. Children covered their ears and joggers stopped in their tracks as the blue jets roared overhead.
"Yikes!" said Beryl Williamson, 79, as she tried to follow the jets with her camera while handing hot dogs to her two young grandsons. "They're too fast for me. All I'm getting are pictures of empty sky."
The precision team will conduct a full practice over the water just south of Fort McHenry between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. today and then put on an air show about the same times Saturday and Sunday.
Friday's Sailabration highlights
11 a.m.: Festival Villages open at the Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry and Fells Point.
11 a.m.-6 p.m.: Ships open for free tours at the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.
1 p.m.-4 p.m.: Blue Angels air show rehearsal, over the water south of Fort McHenry.
6 p.m.: Navy Ceremonial Band performance, Harborplace Amphitheatre.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun