Richard Neal, the owner of a bed-and-breakfast 32 miles off the coast of North Carolina in old Coast Guard tower, says he fielded several angry calls from veterans as Hurricane Florence approached.
That’s because his B&B at Frying Pan Tower is also the home of one of the many Explore.org live cams that have been documenting the storm as it rumbled toward the Carolina coast.
And also because, that live footage at times has shown the tower’s American flag, being shredded by the devastating rain and wind the storm is bringing with it.
“They told me, ‘this is disrespectful,’ and that I need to get out there and replace the flag right then,” Neal told McClatchy. “In the hurricane.”
Neal isn’t riding the storm out in the tower, as he has done in the past through Hurricanes Arthur, Matthew and Sandy. The software engineer from south Charlotte was able to remotely reposition the live cam, though, so the flag, in the process of getting ripped to smithereens, was no longer in the shot being viewed by what he said was “hundreds of thousands of people.”
But a funny thing happened when he repositioned it.
He started getting comments and questions by the dozen, wondering how the flag was doing.
“A group of kids watching took to calling the flag ‘Kevin,’” Neal told McClatchy. “They wanted to know how Kevin is doing, if Kevin is going to make it.
“It was then that I realized that you can’t make everyone happy, so I moved the feed back to showing the flag again. Because even if it was against flag protocol, that flag represents who we are as America. We get beat up, battered during hard times, but we stay up, stay at it through the storm.”
Flag and Banner has donated a replacement U.S. flag to Neal and Frying Pan Tower. The Frying Pan Tower live cam feed was showing “highlights” on Friday instead of live footage, so the flag in the feed appears to be a new one, but Neal says the one he got from Flag and Banner has not been raised yet.
“With respect, we will retire and replace it next trip,” Neal wrote in a Facebook post.
“That flag is a great representation of the American spirit,” Grady McCoy, vice president of Flag and Banner, told MCClatchy. “For me it says, ‘this too shall pass,’ that we’re going to get through this.”
Neal said he received the first new flag from Flag and Banner Thursday. He plans to donate the tattered flag that made it through the storm to Cystic Fibrosis Wilmington or the American Red Cross of Wilmington for a fundraiser, after all the attention it got through Hurricane Florence.
It will be sold at auction, as proof through the night that our flag was still there.