On the morning of September 13th, 2001, the officer in charge of the Coldstream Guards Band and 1st Battalion Scots Guards received a call from Buckingham Palace. Banish tradition. The music accompanying that day's tourist-swathed ceremomy at the changing would be different. That day, the band played The Star-Spangled Banner. The Brits were with us.
Four years later, still firmly at the side of the United States in general, and this administration specifically, the British felt the domestic blow of what most Americans and Britons agree is a common enemy - even if we disagree on the prosecution of the struggle against that enemy.
Our President, George W. Bush, was actually in the United Kingdom when terror struck London. He was in Scotland, a two-hour flight from Heathrow. Understandably, he and the other leaders completed the G8 summit, unbowed by the carnage in the London transit system.
And then our President came home.
And in doing so, he knowingly cast a gob of bitter spittle in the face of our constant ally, and disgraced the United States of America.
Why didn't President Bush visit London? Why didn't he walk the streets, take a few questions from the press, show the power of his office to Londoners? Stand at the side of Tony Blair and Ken Livingstone? Why hasn't anyone asked? Why did he fly all the way to Washington, signing the condolence book at the British Embassy - instead of walking a moment or two in Londoners' shoes.
When the band played our national anthem at Buckingham Palace, it showed the power of symbols, and the moral reach of constitutional power. It also caused lumps in the throats of any American who heard the stirrings of the song: written, as it was, to the sound of a British bombardment almost two hundred years ago. The song is a call to the colors, a call to honor.
The President, ducking into the comfort of Air Force One, didn't answer that call.