Last night my family and I attended a Washington Nationals' baseball game only to miss getting to our seats in time for the singing of the national anthem. But as I was waiting outside the ballpark for my daughter to come, something magical happened around me.
It's no secret that I have long rushed to baseball, hockey and other sporting events just to be able to take part in the national anthem, to stand with my right hand placed over my heart. There's something incredibly moving to me about taking part in this civic tradition amid thousands of other people.
Standing outside Nationals Park last night with my wife and son, I kept wondering if we would make it to our seats on time. My family knows just how antsy I can get about this. But on this night, it was not meant to be.
Not a minute after my daughter arrived, I could hear the beginning of the anthem being sung, those first five words we all know: "Oh, say can you see..."
At that moment, I noticed some people around me were standing stock-still. Looking behind me, my eyes went directly to a family of six, with kids ranging in age from teenaged on down to a five- or six-year-old. Each and every one of them stood silent and erect, looking as if they were on the verge of taking a family portrait. In front of me and to my sides, I noticed that literally hundreds of people who had been hurrying toward the gate now stood still, too.
Some people held their right hand over their heart. Many had taken off their ball caps. And standing there amid the crowd, I could hear the soft strains of folks singing the words to our national anthem.
Not a person in sight moved. Among the scores of people, I did not see a single individual attempt to move through a turnstile. The crowd was diverse: young and old, women, men, blacks, whites, Asians, and Hispanics, among others.
And we all stood there, together.
Have a good July 4th.