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The American flag that survived Hurricane Florence live on camera while flying on Frying Pan Tower can now be yours.
SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — As Hurricane Florence made its final slow crawl toward the coast on Sept. 13, a live webcam and an American flag became unlikely weather gauges for hundreds of thousands of viewers across the world to get their first glimpse at the storm’s force.
Flying over Frying Pan Tower, 34 miles off Brunswick County’s coast, the flag took a beating as Florence’s winds and rains raged offshore and the Explore.org webcam caught its entire struggle to survive. When the wind and rain dissipated, the flag had won the battle with its stars intact and bars ripped and tattered.
That flag is now being auctioned off on eBay to raise money for the American Red Cross and the current bid, as of Saturday afternoon, was a staggering $10,100 from 90 bids.
Frying Pan Tower owner Richard Neal said the live camera feed of the flag blowing in the storm averaged 100,000 viewers an hour on Sept. 13, the day before Florence made landfall in Wrightsville Beach.
As it flew through the storm, the flag took on a grander meaning for those viewers, some of whom commented its strength was a sign of the nation’s ability to weather tough times.
“As it was being torn to shreds on camera, all the comments coming through were so strong,” Neal said. “It really jumped out to me that it could be a way to benefit the people who were most impacted and put a few dollars in the hands of a good organization.”
The tower’s live cam was shared around the world through local, national and international news organizations and all over social media. But for a moment, it almost lost its red, white and blue star.
“When I first got notified that it was being torn apart, I thought, ‘oh my gosh, I don’t want to show our nation’s reputation being ripped apart,’ so I turned the camera away,” Neal said.
But within minutes, he began to get impassioned messages from people saying they were veterans who fought in Vietnam and Afghanistan, or just proud Americans, who wanted to see the country’s symbol weather the storm.
“So I aimed the camera right at it,” he said.
The commentators even nicknamed the flag “Kevin.” Neal doesn’t know why and, at first, it irritated him. But eventually, he began to think of it as a touching tribute to the everyday American.
“My own twist on it was that yeah, it is Kevin, but it is also Emily and Fred and Nancy and Bill and every other American,” he said. “This is us together out there.”
As for the auction, which ends 10 p.m. Sunday, Neal said he is shocked by the outpouring of deep-pocketed bids, but also sees it as a unique way for someone to give back.
“It really is an expression of someone’s desire to help out their fellow Americans,” he said. “It’s just as clean and simple as that.”
Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at Hunter.Ingram@StarNewsOnline.com.