Searching for a way to support her country after last Tuesday’s terrorists attacks, Jen Piro ’04 thought of its most enduring symbol — the flag.
So she told her parents to ship one to her from home, but they were sold out in New Orleans.
Then, she tried to order one online, but ArtToFlags.com, MilitaryBest.com and other Web sites posted messages saying their last flags were gone.
“They can’t make them fast enough,” said Piro.
Piro shouldn’t even bother trying to buy one in local stores. With last Tuesday’s attacks, stores around the country — including in New Haven — have completely sold out their stocks of flags, which can now be seen decorating cars, houses, shops and even the Branford College courtyard.
While most Yalies have not tried to buy flags, it appears others around the country feel like Piro.
For now, while American flags can be bought nowhere, they can be seen everywhere.
On Beinecke Plaza and around campus — and the country — flags are flown at half-staff. Connecticut Gov. John Rowland has said flags will remain at half-mast indefinitely, and University officials said they would comply with that proclamation.
Flags decorate shop windows on Chapel Street, hang out of windows in Old Campus and flap from antennas of cars speeding down Elm. But these flags were owned before last Tuesday’s terrorist attack on our nation — or purchased shortly thereafter.
“We got six [flags] in last night, but employees grabbed them before they even hit the shelves,” said Cathy Hemstock, a Wal-Mart employee in Branford.
Wal-Mart shipped most of its American flags to its New York stores, with other branches nationwide receiving only a handful each.
Hemstock said the store gets several hundred phone calls a day inquiring about the availability of the American emblems.
“We don’t get enough in to even say we sell flags,” Hemstock said.
Without flags, Hemstock has manned a stand since Tuesday at Wal-Mart’s entrance, giving red, white and blue ribbons in exchange for a donation towards relief efforts.
At Home Depot in New Haven, the flag racks have been empty since Thursday. The store won’t receive another shipment for weeks, but employee Cathy Welles said customers continue to request the coveted commodity.
“If we had thousands in stock, we would have sold them all,” Welles said.
Walgreen’s on Whalley Avenue is sold out too, a manager said.
Closer to campus, flags are even harder to find. Most stores did not even sell them to begin with.
Kaye’s Art Supply on Chapel Street displays a poster portraying an American flag in its window, but this is their only copy of the print. It’s not for sale.
The only store near campus stocked with red, white and blue items is Urban Outfitters.
But that’s only if you want your “American flag” in belt, wallet or sock form.
On campus, Alicia Baker, the administrative assistant for Branford College, decided the courtyard needed some patriotism, but knew she could not find a flag to buy.
So she decided to donate one from her own sacred stock: the flag which draped over her father’s coffin.
A World War II veteran, New Haven native and Yale sports enthusiast, Baker said her dad would be honored his flag was being flown.
Since Piro did not find a flag of her own to fly, she printed one out from her computer.
While Piro remains frustrated with the shortage of flags, she is comforted so many throughout the country have bought them since Sept. 11.
“I am so proud of America. I used to think no one cared about anyone anymore, but this has proved me wrong,” Piro said.
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