(Colombo Lankapuvath)- Americans celebrated the 200th anniversary of the writing of their national anthem on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) with a weekend-long series of concerts, historical reenactments and the largest fireworks display in the history of the city of Baltimore, Maryland.
Francis Scott Key penned the song, initially called “The Defense of Fort McHenry”, on the morning of September 14, 1814, during the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain. It was the last military confrontation between the young nation and its former colonial master.
Key had gone to the ship to negotiate the release of American prisoners and was forced to watch the British bombardment of Baltimore from the ship. When the dawn broke and he saw the US flag still flying over the city, he knew British forces had not conquered it and he was moved to write the song. It wasn’t adopted as the country’s national anthem until a presidential order was issued in 1916.
The flag that inspired Key to write the song now hangs in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.
As part of the anniversary festivities, US Vice-President Joe Biden referenced the US pledge of allegiance in pointing out the powerful symbolism of the flag.
“It does not just wave above us, it lives within our hearts, the heart of every American,” he said. “We are Americans, and as every American enemy who has ever faced us has learned, it’s never, ever, ever been a good bet to bet against the United States of America, because we are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
An unusual guest was also on hand for the party: a warship from the same navy that bombarded Fort McHenry.
The British Navy frigate H.M.S. Argyll is one of 30 naval vessels from seven nations that sailed into the port of Baltimore for the anniversary celebration.
It fired a cannon salute as it entered the harbor earlier this week, evoking the “bombs bursting in air” that inspired Key to pen the song