As the Carolinas are being pounded by Hurricane Florence, the American flag has emerged as a powerful symbol of hope and defiance.
About 32 miles off the coast of North Carolina sits an old Coast Guard light structure known locally as Frying Pan Tower. It’s been streaming live video footage as the hurricane roars ashore.
In that video, an American flag told the story of the ferocity of the storm’s winds. Over a period of hours, the flag became battered and torn, but remained flying. Dubbed “Kevin” by some children watching the feed, the picture of the flag has gone viral.
Some people complained that the damaged flag should have been taken down. Some pointed out it never should have been flying in the first place. But the owner of Frying Pan Tower, who turned the structure into a bed and breakfast in 2010, took to Facebook to explain.
Hey folks, the last time we were out we put up a new flag. With respect, we will retire and replace it next trip. We see…
It hit me that Mr. Neal’s sentiments were in stark contrast to those expressed by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose protest against the national anthem also went viral.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media after Friday’s game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Not to be outdone, “Florida Man” made another appearance during a hurricane, waving the American flag in the teeth of the wind. “Florida Man” is Lane Pittman, who has shown up during other hurricanes to rage against the wind.
His video, made during Hurricane Matthew, posted to Twitter, has gotten 27 million views.
Despite officials urging evacuations or, at the least, safely battening down the hatches at home, Lane Pittman was captured on film holding an American flag while headbanging to heavy metal music as Florence’s 85 mph winds and rain pelted him.
“Just being free and American. I don’t let nothing oppress me, especially no dang, freaking hurricane,” he told Fox Business Network reporter Kristina Partsinevelos, who caught up with him after his stunt…as he tried to fix a flat tire.
When asked if he was doing this to go viral, he responded: “I’ve already been viral.”
Pittman, who is from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, became Internet famous in 2015 after Fox News wrote about Neptune Beach Police issuing Pittman a citation for breaching the peace when he played a raucous guitar rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” — and a verse of Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” — during a July 4 celebration.
His pride in the American flag carried over to 2016, when he stared down Category 2 Hurricane Matthew without a shirt on and while holding the flag — headbanging the entire time to Slayer hit “Raining Blood.” His ginger locks flowed behind him in the fierce winds that, at times, reached 40 mph.
“Had a request for some hair action during the ‘cane. I granted it,” he wrote on Facebook at the time in a post that has been viewed more than 27 million times.
He also pulled the stunt during Hurricane Irma last year.
This year, Pittman started a GoFundMe page to raise money for gas and coffee to drive from Florida to Myrtle Beach.
Crazy? Suicidal? Maybe. But you’ve got to love him nonetheless.