Flag Flying Over Frying Pan Shoal Tower During Florence Becomes Popular Symbol of Resilience
By Peter A. Janssen
Here’s a story about how one tattered American flag, flying over a former Coast Guard lighthouse off the coast of North Carolina, became a symbol of resilience and renewal during storm Florence.
The Frying Pan Shoals lighthouse was built in 1854, about 39 miles off Southport and 32 miles from Bald Head Island, at the southern end of the shoals there. So many boats had broken apart on the shoals that the area was named the Graveyard of the Atlantic. On a chart, the shoals resemble a frying pan.
In 1964, the Coast Guard built a hulking steel tower there, rising 85 feet above the sea. The lighthouse was manned by the Coast Guard until 2004, when GPS made the station obsolete. Richard Neal, a software engineer from Charlotte, bought it at a public auction eight years ago, and now runs it as an adventure B&B.
About four years ago, Explore.org mounted webcams on the tower to provide a continuous video feed. Neal can maneuver the cameras from home. When Florence hit as a Category 2 storm, he focused on the flag. When the wind started tearing the flag to shreds, he moved cameras away as a sign of respect. But so many people objected that he put them on the flag again.
On social media, the resilience of the flag took on a life of its own. Someone nicknamed the flag “Kevin,” and Twitter accounts followed Kevin’s fight for life.
On Facebook, Neal wrote, “If you have been following the chatter, it seems someone decided to name our flag ‘Kevin.’ Well, if so, then Old Glory is Kevin. It is Paul, it is Nancy, it is Larry, it is Emily…Old Glory represents all of us as Americans. Together, WE are America and we decide to pick up, start again and sew our tattered lives back together after the storms of life pass through.”
Neal plans to auction the remnants of the flag for charity. For more, and the video: