- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

Talk about good timing.

When free-lance photographer Lauri Lyons decided to compile a photo book of Americans of all stripes posed with their country's flag six years ago, she never dreamed her work would be released during the patriotic symbol's rebirth.

More than a month after terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, American flags are everywhere. Miss Lyons' book "Flag: an American Story," released this month, portrays ordinary people and their comments on America.

A group of scowling black youngsters in New York stands next to a flag, while on a facing page, a trio of white boys on a Montana cattle ranch is at ease and smiling. A bikini-clad woman in Miami poses atop her flag, while some homeless men in San Francisco use one to keep warm.

Compiled from 1995 to 2000, the book shows a pre-Sept. 11 mentality that is worlds away from current national unity.

"People treated the flag like another piece of fabric then. There was not the high level of patriotism and reverence you see now," said Miss Lyons, 30, a Harlem, N.Y., resident. "America is always changing. We choose what we want to be and that may all change tomorrow.

"And actually, it did."

Her favorite photo, a man in Brooklyn, N.Y., wraps a flag protectively around four children.

"I met ex-gang members, gays, people living from paycheck to paycheck," Miss Lyons says. "It's surprising how poetic and thoughtful people can be on the spur of the moment." Each person was asked to write their sentiments about America alongside their photo.

"Great country, with a lot of opportunities for foreign people like me," wrote a muscular Argentine man posed on a flag towel on a Miami beach.

The native-born, however, showed some resentments.

"People said, if you can bail out the airline industry in one day, how come you can't build more schools," the photographer said. "People felt resentful because they weren't getting a piece of what really matters."

Miss Lyons traveled about the country on Amtrak, stayed in youth hostels and concentrated on the poor and blue-collar folks, "who I found were the everyday people who make up the bulk of our society. But you never see these people," either in the media or in films.

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