© St. Petersburg Times, published September 13, 2002
I THINK I know why it rained.
I had been uneasy for weeks about Flags Along the Bayshore, this union of pride and grief. How could we pull it off? Carry flags, and not cry. Would wet faces betray us in the sunlight, there among our neighbors?
That is why it rained. So that umbrellas and ponchos could shelter eyes. So as to push us closer together and give us a reason for the trembling.
I HAD SEEN, near midnight, the two beams of light in the median, symbols of fallen towers. Bayshore was all but empty. Stragglers craned necks to follow the light. A cloud above them glowed, until, finally, the next morning, the cloud opened.
Gen. Tommy Franks called Flags Along the Bayshore a "rain-enhanced remembrance" and he was, of course, correct.
FRIENDS found each other and extended umbrellas. They blanketed each other's children.
Corky and Paulette Miller brought Sam, 5. Bob Lee brought Noel, also 5.
Sam and Noel met Jessie, a Tampa rescue dog who had braved the rubble of the World Trade Center.
"Can she shake hands?" little Sam asked.
Jessie lifted a paw.
EARLY ON, there were bagpipes, and Sam's dad tried to keep a firm face.
Sam's mom said they gave her goose bumps.
Bob Hite, the TV anchorman, grimly recounted the attacks. One by one, he noted the flights, the times, the lives lost.
On a sidewalk near Sam, a police reserve officer's radio squawked, then fell silent. And the thunder began.
WE WERE heroes for getting up early, we learned, heroes for standing in the rain, heroes for forbearance.
A Baptist minister spoke of our "unbearable sorrow" and "unquenchable anger."
"We remember and we weep," he said.
THE BUGLER called taps. The patter of raindrops filled the spaces between notes.
Wednesday, even flags wept. They bravely held rain for as long as they could, and then they let it go.
- Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard was once called Grand Central. Now Grand Central is a weekly City Times column. Writer Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.