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Fifth Grade students, sing the national anthem during Runnymede Elementary School's presentation for Patriot Day.
Fifth Grade students, sing the national anthem during Runnymede Elementary School's presentation for Patriot Day. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

MAYBERRY — The lights flickered in the Runnymede Elementary School auditorium. The sound of rain and thunder echoed throughout the room as fifth-graders grabbed nearby rain sticks and drums.

Suddenly, plush red, white and blue yarn balls went flying across the front of the stage, marking the beginning of the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812.

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Just days shy of the anniversary of the battle, which inspired Carroll County-born Francis Scott Key to write the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner," and on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, students at Runnymede paid homage to America through a re-enactment on Thursday. Donning red, white and blue outfits or Colonial-style attire, the school's fifth-graders put on a four-scene performance highlighting a portion of the battle that made Maryland famous and birthed the national anthem.

The re-enactment opened with the designing of the star-spangled flag, a federally commissioned 30-by-42-foot banner. The students also re-enacted the American troops stationed at Fort McHenry, Key sailing to meet the British navy to negotiate the release of American doctor William Beanes from his captivity, and the two-day battle.

Nicholas Diehl, 11, who played Key, cracked jokes at the British navy during the negotiation for Beanes.

"Your flag is falling," Nicholas told the British as the taped-on flag began tilting off the front of the cardboard ship during the play.

Nicholas, of Westminster, was selected for the part in the spring when Runnymede's vocal and instrumental teachers started planning for the performance.

The play was a part of the school's recognition of the Battle of Baltimore's bicentennial and the history of the Key family at Runnymede Elementary, vocal teacher Karen Sirian said.

Key was born in Keymar in 1779 and the school sits on the land that once belonged to Key's grandfather, according to Carroll County Public Schools.

"We knew the 200th anniversary was coming up, and the students studied the war [last year] in the fourth grade," Sirian said. "We had them work in teams and break apart the story."

The performers only had one practice before the assembly, as it is only three weeks into the school year, she said. Sirian was amazed at how quickly the students put the performance together.

"They will remember it for years to come because they were a part of it," Sirian said. "And it's important for the little ones because they could see it happening."

Reach staff writer Krishana Davis at 410-857-7862 or krishana.davis@carrollcountytimes.com.

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