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The Star Spangled Banner

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September 11, 2001 Memorial Site

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The National Anthem of the United States of America

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This anthem was written by Francis Key as he was being held prisoner on a Royal Navy frigate during the British attack on Fort McHenry in the war of 1812.

Oh, say! can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming;
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there:
Oh, say! does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In fully glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution!
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh, thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust":
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave
.

Restoration of the Star Spangled Banner

 

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Francis Scott Key

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1780-1843


Francis Scott Key was a respected young lawyer living in Georgetown just west of where the modern day Key Bridge crosses the Potomac River (the house was torn down after years of neglect in 1947). He made his home there from 1804 to around 1833 with his wife Mary and their six sons and five daughters. At the time, Georgetown was a thriving town of 5,000 people just a few miles from the Capitol, the White House, and the Federal buildings of Washington.

But, after war broke out in 1812 over Britian's attempts to regulate American shipping and other activities while Britain was at war with France, all was not tranquil in Georgetown. The British had entered Chesapeake Bay on August 19th, 1814, and by the evening of the 24th of August, the British had invaded and captured Washington. They set fire to the Capitol and the White House, the flames visible 40 miles away in Baltimore.

President James Madison,his wife Dolley, and his Cabinet had already fled to a safer location. Such was their haste to leave that they had had to rip the Stuart portrait of George Washington from the walls without its frame!

A thunderstorm at dawn kept the fires from spreading. The next day more buildings were burned and again a thunderstorm dampened the fires. Having done their work the British troops returned to their ships in and around the Chesapeake Bay.

In the days following the attack on Washington, the American forces prepared for the assault on Baltimore (population 40,000) that they knew would come by both land and sea. Word soon reached Francis Scott Key that the British had carried off an elderly and much loved town physician of Upper Marlboro, Dr. William Beanes, and was being held on the British flagship TONNANT. The townsfolk feared that Dr. Beanes would be hanged. They asked Francis Scott Key for his help, and he agreed, and arranged to have Col. John Skinner, an American agent for prisoner exchange to accompany him.

On the morning of September 3rd, he and Col. Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard a sloop flying a flag of truce approved by President Madison. On the 7th they found and boarded the TONNANT to confer with Gen. Ross and Adm. Alexander Cochrane. At first they refused to release Dr. Beanes. But Key and Skinner produced a pouch of letters written by wounded British prisoners praising the care they were receiving from the Americans, among them Dr. Beanes. The British officers relented but would not release the three Americans immediately because they had seen and heard too much of the preparations for the attack on Baltimore. They were placed under guard, first aboard the H.M.S. Surprise, then onto the sloop and forced to wait out the battle behind the British fleet.

Now let's go back to the summer of 1813 for a moment. At the star-shaped Fort McHenry, the commander, Maj. George Armistead, asked for a flag so big that "the British would have no trouble seeing it from a distance". Two officers, a Commodore and a General, were sent to the Baltimore home of Mary Young Pickersgill, a "maker of colours," and commisioned the flag. Mary and her thirteen year old daughter Caroline, working in an upstairs front bedroom, used 400 yards of best quality wool bunting. They cut 15 stars that measured two feet from point to point. Eight red and seven white stripes, each two feet wide, were cut. Laying out the material on the malthouse floor of Claggett's Brewery, a neighborhood establishment, the flag was sewn together. By August it was finished. It measured 30 by 42 feet and cost $405.90. The Baltimore Flag House, a museum, now occupies her premises, which were restored in 1953.

At 7 a.m. on the morning of September 13, 1814, the British bombardment began, and the flag was ready to meet the enemy. The bombardment continued for 25 hours,the British firing 1,500 bombshells that weighed as much as 220 pounds and carried lighted fuses that would supposedly cause it to explode when it reached its target. But they weren't very dependable and often blew up in mid air. From special small boats the British fired the new Congreve rockets that traced wobbly arcs of red flame across the sky. The Americans had sunk 22 vessels so a close approach by the British was not possible. That evening the connonading stopped, but at about 1 a.m. on the 14th, the British fleet roared to life, lighting the rainy night sky with grotesque fireworks.

Key, Col. Skinner, and Dr. Beanes watched the battle with apprehension. They knew that as long as the shelling continued, Fort McHenry had not surrendered. But, long before daylight there came a sudden and mysterious silence. What the three Americans did not know was that the British land assault on Baltimore as well as the naval attack, had been abandoned. Judging Baltimore as being too costly a prize, the British officers ordered a retreat.

Waiting in the predawn darkness, Key waited for the sight that would end his anxiety; the joyous sight of Gen. Armisteads great flag blowing in the breeze. When at last daylight came, the flag was still there!

Being an amatuer poet and having been so uniquely inspired, Key began to write on the back of a letter he had in his pocket. Sailing back to Baltimore he composed more lines and in his lodgings at the Indian Queen Hotel he finished the poem. Judge J. H. Nicholson, his brother-in-law, took it to a printer and copies were circulated around Baltimore under the title "Defence of Fort M'Henry". Two of these copies survive. It was printed in a newspaper for the first time in the Baltimore Patriot on September 20th,1814, then in papers as far away as Georgia and New Hampshire. To the verses was added a note "Tune: Anacreon in Heaven." In October a Baltimore actor sang Key's new song in a public performance and called it "The Star-Spangled Banner".

Immediately popular, it remained just one of several patriotic airs until it was finally adopted as our national anthem on March 3, 1931. But the actual words were not included in the legal documents. Key himself had written several versions with slight variations so discrepancies in the exact wording still occur.

The flag, our beloved Star-Spangled Banner, went on view ,for the first time after flying over Fort McHenry, on January 1st,1876 at the Old State House in Philadelphia for the nations' Centennial celebration. It now resides in the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History. An opaque curtain shields the now fragile flag from light and dust. The flag is exposed for viewing for a few moments once every hour during museum hours.

Francis Scott Key was a witness to the last enemy fire to fall on Fort McHenry. The Fort was designed by a Frenchman named Jean Foncin and was named for then Secretary of war James McHenry. Fort McHenry holds the unique designation of national monument and historic shrine.

Since May 30th, 1949 the flag has flown continuously, by a Joint Resolution of Congress, over the monument marking the site of Francis Scott Key's birthplace, Terra Rubra Farm, Carroll County, Keymar, Maryland.

The copy that Key wrote in his hotel September 14,1814, remained in the Nicholson family for 93 years. In 1907 it was sold to Henry Walters of Baltimore. In 1934 it was bought at auction in New York from the Walters estate by the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore for $26,400. The Walters Gallery in 1953 sold the manuscript to the Maryland Historical Society for the same price. Another copy that Key made is in the Library of Congress.

 

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The History of The Flag

 

The Flag of the United States is the third oldest of the National standards of the world; older than the Union Jack of Britain or the Tricolor of France.   

The Flag was first authorized by Congress June 14, 1777. This date is now observed as Flag Day  throughout America.  

The Flag was first flown from Fort Stanwix, on the site of the present city of Rome, New York, on August 3, 1777. It was first under fire three days later in the Battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777.  

It was decreed that there should be a star and a stripe for each state, making 13 of both, for the states at that time had just been erected from the original 13 colonies.  

The colors of the Flag may be thus explained: The red is for valor, zeal and fervency; the white for hope, purity, cleanliness of life and rectitude of conduct; the blue, the color of heaven, for reverence of God, loyalty, sincerity, justice and truth.  

The star (an ancient symbol of India, Persia and Egypt) symbolizes dominion and sovereignty, as well as aspirations. The constellation of the stars within the union---one star for each state---is emblematic of our Federal Constitution, which reserves to the states their individual sovereignty, except as to rights delegated by them to the Federal Government.  

The symbolism of the Flag was thus interpreted by Washington: "We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down in posterity representing liberty."  

In 1791, Vermont, and in 1792, Kentucky were admitted to the Union and the number of stars and stripes were raised to 15 in correspondence. As other states came into the Union, it became evident there would be too many stripes. So in 1818, Congress enacted that the number of stripes be reduced and restricted to 13, representing the 13 original states, while a star should be added for each succeeding state. That is the law of today.  

The name 'Old Glory' was given to the Flag, August 10, 1831, by Captain William Driver of the brig Charles Doggett.  

The Flag was first carried in battle at the Brandywine, September 11, 1777. It first flew over foreign territory January 28, 1778, at Nassau, Bahama Islands; Fort Nassau having been captured by the Americans in the course of the war for independence. The first foreign salute to the Flag was rendered by the French admiral, LaMotte, off Quiberon Bay, February 13, 1778.  

The United States Flag is unique in the deep and noble significance of its message to the entire world---a message of national independence, of individual liberty, of idealism, of patriotism. 

It symbolizes national independence and popular sovereignty. It is not the Flag of a reigning family or royal house, but of over two hundred million free people welded into one Nation, one and inseparable, united not only by community of interest, but by vital unity of sentiment and purpose, a Nation distinguished for the clear individual conception of its citizens alike of their duties and their privileges, their obligations and their rights. 

It incarnates for all mankind the spirit of Liberty and the glorious ideal of human Freedom; not the freedom of unrestraint or the liberty of license, but an unique ideal of equal opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, safeguarded by the stern and lofty principles of duty, of righteousness and of justice, and attainable by obedience to self-imposed laws. 

Floating from the lofty pinnacle of American idealism, it is a beacon of enduring hope, like the famous Bartholdi Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World to the oppressed of all lands. It floats over a wondrous assemblage of people   from every racial stock of the earth whose united hearts constitute an indivisible and invincible force for the defense and succor of the downtrodden. 

It embodies the essence of patriotism. Its spirit is the spirit of the American nation. Its history is the history of the American people. Emblazoned upon its folds in letters of living light are the names and fame of our heroic dead, the Fathers of the Republic who devoted upon its altars their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Twice told tales of national honor and glory cluster thickly about it. Ever victorious, it has emerged triumphant for nine great national conflicts. It bears witness to the immense expansion of our national boundaries, the development of our natural resources, and the splendid structure of our civilization. It prophesies the triumph of popular government, of civic and religious liberty and of national righteousness throughout the world. 

The Flag first rose over thirteen states along the Atlantic seaboard, with a population of some three million people. Today it flies over fifty states, extending across the continent, and over great islands of the two oceans; and owe allegiance. It has been brought to this proud position by love and sacrifice. Citizens have advanced it and heroes have died for it. On February 23, 1945, members of the U.S. Marine Corps raised the flag a top Mt. Suribachi, during the Battle for Iwo Jima.   Today, the Iwo Jima Memorial, which depicts that event stands outside Arlington Nation Cemetery.   It is the sign made visible of the strong spirit that has brought liberty and prosperity to the people of America. It is the Flag of all of us alike. Let us accord it honor and loyalty

 

 

 

Flag Etiquette

The following flag laws and regulations are contained in the Public Law as amended July 7, 1976 by the 94th Congress of the United States. They set forth the existing rules, customs and etiquette pertaining to the display and use of the flag of the United States of America.

Section 1

The following codification of existing rules and customs pertaining to the display and use of the flag of the United States of America shall be and is hereby established for the use of such civilians or civilian groups or organizations as may not be required to conform with regulations promulgated by one or more executive departments of the Government of the United States.

The flag of the United States, for purposes of this chapter, shall be defined according to Title 4, United States Code, chapter 1, section 1 and section 2, and Executive Order 10834 issued pursuant thereto.

Section 2

(a) It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

(b) The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered cautiously.

(c) The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all weather flag is displayed.

(d) The flag should be displayed on all days, especially on New Year's Day, January 1; Inauguration Day, January 20; Lincoln's Birthday, February 12; Washington's Birthday, third Monday in February; Easter Sunday (variable); Mother's Day, second Sunday in May; Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May; Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May; Flag Day, June 14; Independence Day, July 4; Labor Day, first Monday in September; Constitution Day, September 17; Columbus Day, second Monday in October; Navy Day, October 27; Veterans Day, November 11; Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November; Christmas Day, December 25; and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States; the birthdays of States (date of admission); and on State holidays.

(e) The flag should be displayed daily, on or near the main administration building of every public institution.

(f) The flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election days.

(g) The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse.

Section 3

That the flag, when carried in a procession with another flag or flags, should be either on the marching right; that is, the flag's own right, or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.

(a) The flag should not be displayed on a float in a parade except from a staff' or as provided in subsection (i).

(b) The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides or back of a vehicle or of a railroad train or boat. When the flag is displayed on a motor car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

(c) No other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America, except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, when the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for the personnel of the Navy.

(d) The flag of the United States of America, when it is displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the right, the flag's own right, and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

(e) The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.

(f) When flags of States, cities or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag's right.

(g) When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

(h) When the flag of the United States is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from a windowsill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff. When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should hoisted out, union first, from the building.

(i) When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

(j) When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street.

(k) When used on a speaker's platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience.

(l) The flag should form a distinctive feature of the ceremony of unveiling a statue or monument, but it should never be used as the covering for the statue or monument.

(m) The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff. By order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a State, territory or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory. In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to presidential instructions or orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with the law. In the event of the death of a present or former official of the government of any State, territory or possession of the United States, the Governor of that State, territory or possession may proclaim that the National flag shall be flown at half-staff. The flag shall be flown at half-staff thirty days from the death of the President or a former President; ten days from the death of a Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives: from the day of death until interment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a Secretary of an executive or military department, a former Vice President, or: the Governor of a State, territory or possession; and on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress. As used in this subsection-

  1. the term "half-staff" means the position of the flag when it is one half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff;
  2. the term ''executive or military department" means any agency listed under sections 101 and 102 of Title 5, United States Code; and
  3. the term ''Member of Congress" means a Senator, a Representative, a Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico.

(n) When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered in the grave or allowed to touch the ground.

(o) When the flag is suspended across a corridor or lobby in a building with only one main entrance, it should be suspended vertically with the union of the flag to the observer's left upon entering. If the building has more than one main entrance, the flag should be suspended vertically near the center of the corridor or lobby with the union to the north, when entrances are to the east and west, or to the east when entrances are to the north and south. If there are entrances in more than two directions, the union should be to the east.

Section 4

That no disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise.

(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker's desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.

(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used or stored in such manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.

(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.

(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any l mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture or drawing of any nature.

(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything.

(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.

Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However' a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen' policemen' and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

Section 5

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present except those in uniform should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. Those present in uniform should render the military salute. When not in uniform, men should remove the headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Aliens should stand at attention. The salute to the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

Section 6

During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform shall stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.

Section 7

The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag:

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.

Section 8

Any rule or custom pertaining to the display of the flag of the United States of America, set forth herein, may be altered, modified or repealed, or additional rules with respect thereto may be prescribed, by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, whenever he deems it to be appropriate or desirable; and any such alteration or additional rule shall be set forth in a proclamation.

No person shall display the flag of the United Nations or any other national or international flag equal, above, or in a position of superior prominence or honor to, or in place of, the flag of the United States at any place within the United States or any Territory or possession thereof: Provided, That nothing in this section shall make unlawful the continuance of the practice heretofore followed of displaying the flag of the United Nations in a position of superior prominence or honor, and other national flags in positions of equal prominence or honor, with that of the flag of the United States at the headquarters of the United Nations.

Retiring the Flag

"The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning." (The United States Flag Code) The flag should be burned in private at a private, non-public location.

In many American communities, one or more organizations render an important community service by collecting and overseeing the proper disposal of old, worn, tattered, frayed and/or faded U.S. Flags.

For information in your community try the Boy Scouts of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the American Legion. If they provide a flag retirement service the flag can be dropped off and they will take care of the ceremony.

A flag retirement ceremony may also be a family activity. It provides an opportunity to teach and instruct. If retiring the flag as a family the following steps might be considered:

1 Gather the family around. Raise the flag on the pole or staff or hold it aloft by
hand.

2. Call the group to attention salute and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

3. The leader might say something like "This flag has served its nation well and long. It
is now worn to a condition in which it should no longer be used to represent the nation.
We pay honor to this flag for the service it has rendered."

4. Fold the flag according to procedures explained on this site. (Folding the Flag)

5. Give the flag to the group leader who will burn it until it is completely consumed.

LINKS

Memorial Day Tribute Declaration of Independence 

The Constitution

My POW/MIAs

The Navy Hymn Tribute to Col. Scherr, USMC

Sitmap

 

 

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