. . . as we were leaving the enemy flagship a British officer hurried up to us. "I'm sorry gentlemen," he said firmly. "We are about to attack Baltimore. You must remain with us until the battle is over and the city has surrendered."
I swallowed deeply. I felt as if this were a bad dream, a horrible nightmare from which I would soon awaken. Colonel Skinner cast a comforting arm around my shoulder. His eyes were misty. "I know what you're feeling, my friend; but there is nothing we can do." ". . . nothing we can do." The words struck a familiar chord in my memory. I brought back a vision of Grandmother Key as I read to her from the Bible
"Well, Frances, it is raining outside. You cannot go out and play. There is nothing you can do about it. But we can always pray together. Remember, Francis, you can always pray." So, on that night of September 13, 1814, I stood on board the ship Minden in the Chesapeake Bay and prayed.
I took an old envelope from my pocket and scribbled a few words and phrases as the battle for Fort McHenry, and the fate of our new nation began. My head pounded with the sound of exploding cannon shots and shells. I paced along the deck, aware that I was surrounded by hostile sailors. They were hoping for the fort to fall as strongly as I was hoping it would hold. Without warning the firing stopped. The air was still. How I longed to see the fort. Was the flag still flying?
"Doctor Beane, quickly stumbling to the deck, asked: "Has the fort surrendered?" "We don't know," I answered. "We can't know until sunrise." Time crawled. We stood waiting in the darkness. "The sun is coming up," Colonel Skinner shouted. "The dawn is breaking!" Once more I took out my envelopes. I scribbled away, noting the glow of the dawn's early light. The mist had cleared the smoke away. "I can see it!" I exclaimed. "The flag - our flag - it's still there!"
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