Village Times Herald

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Suffolk County will enter Phase 4 tomorrow of its economic reopening with the tail wind of strong public health numbers.

The new phase “means that certain low-risk outdoor and indoor activity will begin to open up,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in his daily conference call with reporters. Some arts, entertainment, media and sports will restart.

Residents are permitted to gather in groups of 50, up from the 25 from the previous phase. Houses of worship, meanwhile, can go to 33 percent capacity.

The Long Island Aquarium, the Maritime Museum, and the Children’s Zoo, among others, are all reopening.

“I encourage people to call directly to make sure that the places are open,” Bellone advised. Some of these facilities might have specific restrictions and may have limited hours.

In the last 24 hours, 45 people tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 41,730. With 4,226 people tested, the percentage of positive tests was about 1.1 percent.

At the same time, 20,003 have tested positive for the antibody to the virus, indicating that their bodies fought off COVID-19 without a positive test.

Hospitalizations fell six to 57, which is the first time since March that the number of residents who were in the hospital with coronavirus symptoms was below 60. At the same time, the number of people in the Intensive Care Unit was 14, which is a decline of two.

An additional nine people were discharged from the hospital and are continuing their recovery at home.

Hospital bed occupancy was at 64 percent, with ICU bed capacity at 60 percent.

One person died in the last day from complications related to the virus, bringing the total to 1,985.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo by Alex Petroski

Even as Suffolk County prepares for the final phase of its economic reopening this Wednesday, people came to Fire Island during Fourth of July celebrations, where they reportedly violated social distancing and face covering rules.

After all the work to reduce the spread of the virus in Suffolk County and the economic and personal sacrifices designed to save lives, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) was disheartened by images of people on Fire Island and in Montauk who ignored public health rules.

Bringing groups of people within six feet of each other without wearing face coverings is “just dumb,” Bellone said. “It doesn’t make sense. The way that we will undo all of the progress that we have made is to simply stop using common sense.”Such flouting of rules designed to protect the public “is unacceptable” and will result in enforcement actions, Bellone said.

Future incidents in which people don’t follow health guidelines can result in tickets from the police department. The tickets are a Class B Felony.

Bellone urged residents to remain safe so that the county can consider reopening schools and so businesses that have been able to survive the earlier shutdown can continue to rebuild.

The Suffolk County Police Department received 1,160 firework-related calls from Friday through Sunday.

Viral Numbers

The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 was 43, which represents a 1.1 percent positive rate among the 3,812 people tested.

The total number of people who have tested positive for the virus was 41,685. The number of people who have had a positive antibody test, who have not had symptoms of the disease but whose bodies have developed antibodies, is 19,978.

Hospitalizations declined by three to 63, while the number of people in the Intensive Care Units was 16, which is also down by three.

Hospital bed use was at 64 percent. The occupancy of ICU beds was at 56 percent.

Over the last day, 13 people were discharged from Suffolk County hospitals.

One person died from complications related to COVID-19. The total number of deaths for Suffolk County increased to 1,984.

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating an incident during which a man was found unresponsive in a pool in Stony Brook July 5.

Sixth Precinct police officers responded a home on Harmon Court at approximately 2 p.m. after Anthony Leo was found unresponsive in a pool outside the residence.

Leo, 78, of Freeport, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was listed in critical condition.

Residents prepare July Fourth at-home firework shows in Port Jefferson Station in 2018. Photo by Kyle Barr

A man in Port Jefferson Station was injured just after 10 p.m. last night when he attempted to light a firework that explored and injured one of his eyes.

Carlos Diaz, 29, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but not life threatening injuries.

Additionally, a 29-year old man in Central Islip was severely wounded in the hand from an exploding firework. The man was at home on Tamarack Street when the injury occurred around 9:10 p.m. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital.

“Every year, we do these reminders and talk about the dangers of fireworks,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in his daily media call. He shared his hopes that both people injured by fireworks will recover.

Suffolk County Police Department Chief Stuart Cameron said the county did have a higher incidence of fireworks-related calls, due to the limitations on large crowds at the usual fireworks shows.

While the number rose, he said the increase in Nassau County was “much higher.”

Earlier in the day, at 5:30 p.m., Second Precinct officers responded to a fire at the Rodeway Inn in Huntington Station. Canine officers located Raymond Pond, 50, whom they are holding overnight and charging with Arson in the second degree. Pond, who is a resident of the Inn, also has two outstanding warrants. While people were at the Inn when it caught fire, the police reported no injuries.

Viral Numbers

For the fifth time in the last seven days, Suffolk County reported no deaths from complications related to COVID-19. This lower mortality rate puts the county in a good position to reach Phase 4 of its reopening plan this Wednesday.

“We are moving into the new week in very good shape,” Bellone said. The low mortality rate is a “credit to everyone who has done amazing work in this county,” including by the public who he said has, mostly, abided by rules regarding social distancing and face coverings.

The number of new positive tests was 57, which brings the total number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus to 41,642.

An additional 19,960 people have tested positive for the antibody.

Hospitalizations declined by four to 66. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit increased by two to 19.

Hospital bed occupancy was at 67 percent, while the percent of ICU beds in use was 60 percent.

In the last day, 10 people were discharged from county hospitals.

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As Suffolk County prepares to enter Phase 4 of its economic reopening, the county has reported the lowest number of weekly fatalities since March.

For for the fourth time in six days, no one died from complications related to COVID-19, which is a pattern County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said he hopes continues as the county fights to hold its hard-earned gains from the lockdown and new rules designed to protect public health.

The number of people who have died from the virus remained at 1,983.

“This is a real reflection of how far we have come,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters. “All the sacrifices are ultimately about saving people’s lives.”

The number of people who tested positive for the virus was 47, bringing the total to 41,585. That represents 1.1 percent of the tests given over the last day.

Hospitalizations declined by three to 7. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit who are battling the virus fell by three to 17. The two-day decline at the ICU was 10.

Hospital occupancy was at 68 percent, while ICU bed capacity was at 61 percent, both of which are within safe guidelines for continuing to march forward with reopening.

The number of people who were discharged from the hospital was five.

Risco Mention-Lewis, left, was named deputy comissioner in 2012. She said she sees today’s protests as a genuine moment for legitimate reform. File photo

Risco Mention-Lewis, who has been a Deputy Police Commissioner since 2012, talked with TBR News Media about the recent protests on Long Island and about the relationship between the police and communities of color. The deputy commissioner supported the Constitutionally protected right to protest. Mention-Lewis was an assistant district attorney in Nassau County and has served as the first African American Deputy Police Commissioner in Suffolk County. In a wide-ranging interview, which is edited for space, Mention-Lewis offered her candid assessment of the civil unrest and the questions about police triggered by the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the end of May.

TBR: Have you spent time at the protests?

Mention-Lewis: I have not spent a lot of time at the protests. If I can’t [be there], I know somebody who knows somebody. It’s six degrees of separation. I run a support group for previously incarcerated [called Council of Thought and Action, or COTA]. A lot of the guys in that population are marching. Some of them are in the heads of the group, next to the person leading. I can reach out and see if I can have a dialog.

TBR: You did go to Mastic [on June 1]. What happened there?

Mention-Lewis: The young people needed a little conversation and guidance. I was there for 4.5 hours. My knees were so crimped that I couldn’t get into my car.

TBR: What did you do in Mastic?

Mention-Lewis: When they started getting a little out of control, jumping on the Sunrise [Highway], I thought if I could get on the ground and have a conversation, I could help them rethink the way they protest. There’s nothing wrong with protesting. America wouldn’t be here [if we didn’t protest].

TBR: What is your role in these protests?

Mention-Lewis: I’m the Deputy Police Commissioner. The way I look at it, the time we’re in is the time I was born for. My whole career has brought me to be who I am in this moment in time. 

TBR: Can you offer some examples?

Mention-Lewis: All the things I’ve been doing my career are coming together. I’ve been talking about race my entire career. I’ve been talking about disparate treatment in criminal justice. [I have supported] more resources for previously incarcerated people and people of color my entire career. If we want to drive down crime, you have less reentry to do if you do more intervention. We’re focused on the back end, when we could do much more on the front end.

“People in Hauppauge don’t need a Department of Labor as much as people Wyandanch. Why not put resources where they are needed, where people don’t have cars?”

— Risco Mention-Lewis

TBR: What are some of the solutions on the front end?

Mention-Lewis: Police spend a lot of time in minority communities. They are learning to spend time in the community versus as an outsider. They are learning about the youth centers, resource centers. They are talking to those guys on the corner. When I first got here, I hung out on the corner more than I did anything else. I know that was weird. What is the Deputy Police Commissioner doing on the corner? That’s where you get your connections and your influence, getting to know people.

TBR: What sorts of resources do people need?

Mention-Lewis: Part of our job is to make information accessible, to make resources accessible. That’s why I work with [County Executive Steve] Bellone and [Babylon Town Supervisor Rich] Schaffer to make sure the resource center has what is needed in a resource center. If I have to travel two to 2.5 hours on a bus, I’m not getting that resume done. Go online? What if I don’t have Internet. What if I only have a laptop or a cell phone? The resource center needs to have computers. Some communities need a Department of Labor in the neighborhood.

TBR: Like where?

Mention-Lewis: It’s simple, common sense. People in Hauppauge don’t need a Department of Labor as much as people Wyandanch. Why not put resources where they are needed, where people don’t have cars?

TBR: Are protestors talking about any of this?

Mention-Lewis: A lot of protests are talking about [how they want] better. Okay, have you done the research?

TBR: Have the police been effective in making community connections?

Mention-Lewis: We’ve done a really good job of getting into our communities. It’s why we didn’t have incidents [during the over 100 protests]. We had people on bikes talking with people before the marches started.

TBR: Are the protests creating change?

Mention-Lewis: Humans navigating life in white skin have the privilege of not thinking about race, until now. However, because they have not thought about it, they often may not know how to think about it. I’m a practical person. I want resources in the community and also help the Police Department Command understand the framing in the moment.

TBR: Are African American residents skeptical of government resources?

Mention-Lewis: One of the largest things that the government and policing need to understand: because of the history of America, Black people, even if sometimes you bring the resources, [think] it’s a suspect resource. There’s the Tuskegee experiment [in which Black men with syphilis didn’t receive treatment, even when penicillin became the standard of care in 1947. The study continued until the press reported it, in 1972].

TBR: What’s the impact of the Tuskegee Experiment?

Mention-Lewis: There’s always this undercurrent of mistrust, and rightfully so. The Tuskegee experiment went into the early 1970s. We’re talking about recent impacts on Black communities. White communities are not aware all the time. When that body was found in Huntington, people think about lynching. The police may not know, but there are six across the country that Black people are paying attention to. If you don’t know the cultural context, it’s difficult to be having the conversation.

TBR: How do you create the cultural context?

Mention-Lewis: If there are suicides or murders, it [doesn’t matter] in the sense of cultural context. People are concerned, even if the police say they are all suicides. Even if the police say they are all suicides, people of color say, ‘we know they don’t always tell us the truth, especially when we die.’

TBR: What can help develop that cultural context?

Mention-Lewis: We talk to leadership. We talk to families. We have a press conference with all of us and not just the police. When we start thinking about cultural context, how do we communicate taking into account that cultural context? It’s the same with recruitment. We have a low number of African Americans in the police department. We have to talk about the 1,000 pound invisible elephant in the room.

TBR: What’s your focus in the Police Department?

Mention-Lewis: Criminal justice and driving down violence in communities.

TBR: How do you think Suffolk County has done in the police department?

Mention-Lewis: We are ahead of the game. We’ve been working with the Department of Justice for many years. The DOJ is saying we have one of the best implicit bias training programs. They asked us to teach the Ferguson [Missouri Police Department, where a white police officer killed Michael Brown in 2014]. We have been doing community relations in a different way for years. We know how to work with leadership, whether that’s minority, Muslim, Black, Jewish. We know to go to leadership in churches and synagogues to get and receive information to be culturally competent.

“We’ve been working with the Department of Justice for many years. The DOJ is saying we have one of the best implicit bias training programs.”

— Risco Mention-Lewis

TBR: What are you doing to improve the process?

Mention-Lewis: We are doing traffic stop data to look at whether the stops are fair and just. We are doing a community survey to ask how we are doing. How do you know unless you ask? 

TBR: Who is looking at the traffic stop data?

Mention-Lewis: The Finn Institute.

TBR: What do you expect the Institute’s research on traffic stops will show?

Mention-Lewis: That we have work to do, but we’re willing to do it. Most data will always reveal you have work to do.

TBR: What is the methodology of the Finn study?

Mention-Lewis: With the data collection, the study will show when an officer stops a car, the race, date, time and location [of the traffic stop]. If we look at this person’s history, there might be an issue here that we can fine tune.

TBR: The results could show a range of responses, right?

Mention-Lewis: You give the rules, you test to see whether the rules are in place, then you retrain or you congratulate, depending on what’s going on.

TBR: Are you pleased that the SCPD is conducting this study?

Mention-Lewis: We are not perfect. What we have in place are systems to check the system. The community is checking us, too. The community is not just complaining to one another. They are making complaints to us.

TBR: Why isn’t the SCPD using body cameras?

Mention-Lewis: The biggest reason is the cost. It’s millions of dollars for the cameras plus the storage. It’s a great idea. We should have them, eventually. They are going to be across the United States.

TBR: What do you think of the justice system?

Mention-Lewis: We are moving in the right direction as a county. The courts should follow suit because we know with sentencing, statistically, nationally, there are issues. All this is, is an opportunity for every aspect of society to look in the mirror and say, ‘what can I do and what knowledge do I need to do my best effort?’

TBR: How do you think the police has responded to protests?

Mention-Lewis: We don’t say we are a community response unit. We are not looking to respond when something happens. That’s not our relationship with the community. We do community relations. We want to have a relationship year-round. When something happens, that’s not the first time you’re talking to us. Whatever community we’re in, we’re looking to be a part of the solution, working with the community to problem solve. We have people on bike patrol getting to know the protesters at every march.

TBR: Do you think people believe the police are protecting and serving them?

Mention-Lewis: There’s two cultures in policing: the warrior and the guardian. The warrior is what many departments have become. The guardian is what is being promoted as what we should be. Those are just words. How do our actions correspond with that? Black communities in particular have had more of a warrior treatment. How do we partner with the community to listen and deal with problems differently in those communities, effectively but differently?

TBR: Do the police serve the variety of communities effectively?

Mention-Lewis: You should be able to sit down with us and express what you feel we should have done differently. We should be willing to listen. It doesn’t mean you’re always going to walk away satisfied. We will try to figure out how to do it better.

TBR: Have protestors asking for anything unreasonable?

Mention-Lewis: The Mastic kids were asking for a youth center, or some place where they can have activities. That’s reasonable. They were asking for criminal justice reform. Okay, do your research so you know what that means. Be an educated protestor. I haven’t heard ‘defund the police.’ If someone says, ‘no racist police.’ We shouldn’t be offended by that. If they say, no f-ing police, that’s offensive. Some people want to yell in people’s faces unguarded. We have to deal with that as professionals. They are not yelling at us anyway. They are yelling at the officer on the Internet. We are carrying ourselves well through the process.

TBR: How is the police department doing in recruiting people from all communities?

Mention-Lewis: We worked hard with the community to recruit people of color. In the last recruitment class, 34 percent of the applicants identify as people of color. That hasn’t happened in the history of the department. Right now, there are 2 percent [African Americans] in the department. We’re not perfect, but we are doing the damn thing.

TBR: What are some of the easiest things to change?

Mention-Lewis: All departments should have implicit bias training. Across the country, I didn’t know this, we banned chokeholds 30 years ago and there’s still people doing it today. We need national standards for policing so that when people across the country have other rules, they don’t affect our reputation. We’re not perfect.

Fireworks in Port Jefferson for Independence Day 2019. Photo by David Ackerman

As the county prepares for a Fourth of July following a painful spring, county officials and health care providers reminded residents to remain safe during fireworks displays and to continue to follow health guidelines.

Steve Sandoval, Associate Professor of Surgery and Medical Director of the Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters Burn Center at Stony Brook University Hospital, urged residents to be cautious around fireworks and barbecues.

The best way to avoid injuries is to “prevent the burn in the first place with safety tips and precautions to eliminate potential dangers,” Sandoval said in a statement.

The Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters Burn Center offered 10 tips, which included viewing fireworks used by professionals, not leaving hot coals or fire pits, not using the stove top, fire pit or fireplace when residents are tired or have had alcohol.

“If burned, do you go anywhere but a facility that specializes in burn treatment,” Sandoval said.

The Suffolk County Police Department, meanwhile, warned residents of counterfeit oxycodone. Detectives recently seized pills that bear the markings of 30 mg of oxycodone but that were fentanyl instead, which is 1,000 times more potent than morphine. Ingestion can cause overdose and death. The department warned residents that people buying these pills may not be able to distinguish between the counterfeit pills and prescription oxycodone.

Viral Numbers

After two days without a death related to complications from COVID-19, two residents died in the past 24 hours. The total number of residents who have died from the virus is 1,983.

The number of new infections over the last day was 47, bringing the total to 41,538. Gregson Pigott, the Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said new infections crossed a whole spectrum of ages and included people in their 20’s.

The county distributed 30,000 pieces of personal protective equipment over the last day.

After the success of drive in movies at the Smithpoint County Park, the county is opening a second site for movies, at the Suffolk County Community College on the Grant Campus in Brentwood. The series will include “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” July 8, “The Karate Kid” July 9, “Matilda” on the 10th and “Back to the Future” on the 11th. Residents interested in getting free tickets can register through suffolkcountyny.gov/driveinmovies.

METRO photo

It was the winter of 2007 to 2008 when the financial crisis hit. Years of excessive risky loans by banks (and others) and a downturn in the subprime lending market resulted in several years of economic hurt. Many lost their jobs and homes. Some say we truly have never recovered.

For the young people graduating high school or college just over a decade ago, it was walking blind toward a cliff’s edge. They went through school with certain expectations, but the jobs once promised to be there upon graduation were gone. In the following years, young people took what was available, much of the time it was low-paying service industry jobs without a real hope of promotion. A new kind of employment, something people started to call the “gig economy,” was born. People worked freelance without a chance for receiving health insurance through an employer or have any kind of job security.

Now we face a new impending time of economic peril, and there are many thousands of young people graduating this year from high school or college on Long Island.

We as parents and residents need to ask ourselves, “What will we do for them to make sure they can make it out there in a time of wild unpredictability and economic inhospitability?”

Research indicates that people who graduate in a time of economic tension can remain in worse straits than their peers for over a decade. A 2019 study in the Journal of Labor Economics showed the pay and employment rate for people who graduated during the Great Recession have remained relatively low, even after several years. Millennials, the youngest of whom are 24 while the oldest are nearing 40, hold just 3 percent of America’s wealth compared to 21 percent that the baby boomer generation held at around the same age, according to a 2019 U.S. Federal Reserve report. 

This is a pivotal time for young people entering the job market, as not only is this when they can start to accrue wealth and build up savings, but it’s a means to start grinding away at what can be tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. 

Without early starts to their careers, young people will end up running in place, making enough to live but not enough to build their credit or finances (though on Long Island it’s rare they will be able to afford the rent to even the smallest apartment). 

It’s time as a nation we seriously have to consider governmental action to save the future for our graduates. Yes, that includes student loan forgiveness programs, as there is potentially no worse idea than saddling a young person — who likely never even signed a check before — with thousands upon thousands in debt to either private firms or the U.S. government. Even more people will be looking to college as a way to build their job prospects, so it’s time we look at additional subsidies for college. We should also start thinking of handing out incentives to companies willing to hire people fresh out of school.

An unregulated financial sector helped cause the 2008 economic collapse. Now with the pandemic, more research has shown if the government, both state and federal, had responded to the crisis with lockdowns sooner, we could have saved more lives and potentially restarted our economy faster and smoother. 

What’s done is done, but the fact is young people had no part in causing this economic downturn. Let’s have us as parents and neighbors think about how we can still help young people get ahead in life, for the sake of their entire generation.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

America was reluctant to enter both World Wars and yet we won them both, at a tremendous cost to previous generations.

Today, as we continue to battle through the coronavirus, I’d like to think we will persevere. We don’t need political spin. We have plenty of that from both sides.

We need a sense of optimism, of shared purpose and of a keen belief that we will prevail through hard work and a readiness to innovate and adapt. We see so many horrific headlines about the number of people who test positive and who are threatening the capacity of health care systems in Florida and Texas, among others.

Even as we do everything we can to protect our health and the safety of our friends and family, we need to believe in ourselves and in our ability to work together. Defeating the virus takes more than ignoring it or claiming victory for political expediency.

Whoever wins this presidential election in this incredibly challenging year will have enormous work to do. 

Even a vaccine that is tested and produced in mass quantities by the early part of next year, which seems spectacularly optimistic but is still possible, doesn’t automatically put us back on the path to the world of 2019.

After all, the flu vaccine doesn’t eradicate the illness. It comes back with a vengeance some years. Some people who receive the shot still get sick, oftentimes with less severe symptoms.

We need to recognize that the world has changed. We’ve had time to process it and to adjust, even if we’re sick of the new rules. We need to use all the space we have to turn what seems like a nuisance and an inconvenience into a modern triumph.

The country can and should rethink everything from ways to attend sporting events to the specific needs of the home office. Maybe sports stadiums should remove seats, put picnic tables in front of patrons and make the game-time experience for fans look different because, for the foreseeable future, it will be.

Yes, I know, that will cost an incredible amount of money, but it would also give patrons a chance to enjoy their own space, instead of hoping for a time machine that brings us back to an era when we gave strangers a high five when our team scored.

Maybe waiters and waitresses can provide virtual personalized service, connecting through online services that deliver, via conveyor belt beneath those tables, contactless food to guests.

We need to renovate our homes to enjoy the new reality. Maybe we need virtual artwork we can add to our walls, that helps expand our small rooms and that changes at the flick of a switch. Maybe we also can figure out ways to create virtual assembly lines, where workers provide their part of a mechanized process from a distance, in a basement, workspace, or outside in their enclosed yards. It may not be as efficient, because someone might have to transport those parts, but those driving opportunities also create jobs for people who become a part of a new, virtual factory.

We may want to go back to the way things were, but we need to recognize the realities, and the opportunities, that come from moving forward. Moving on will require us to develop new ideas, create new jobs, and believe in ourselves. We have survived and thrived through challenges before, by pulling together, by innovating, and by tapping into the combination of ingenuity and hard work. People are prepared to put in the effort to earn their own version of the American Dream. We need innovations, new businesses, and inspirations that reignite the economy, while protecting our health.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

O! 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 watch’d 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,

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Yes, that is the first stanza of our national anthem, the star-spangled banner. It has been my experience, at ballgames and other public gatherings (remember those?) where the anthem has played, that many Americans do not know all the words. In fact, not a lot of the words. In truth, not any of the words beyond the first two sentences. Confess: that’s you or your spouse or your children.

Now there is always a story behind every creation. In honor of our nation’s upcoming birthday, I thought I would tell you some of the controversial story and remind you of the words of at least the first and last of the four stanzas written by Francis Scott Key.

So who was Francis Scott Key and how did he come to write these words?

Key was a good-looking, rich American lawyer, author and amateur poet who was from Frederick, Maryland. Born August 1, 1779, three years after the start of the Revolutionary War, he lived to be 63, dying at the beginning of 1843. He was married to Mary (“Polly”) Tayloe Lloyd and they had eleven children. Incidentally, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a distant relative.

We remember that we learned of Key viewing the attack by the British on Fort McHenry from a ship outside Baltimore during the brief War of 1812, and how he could not tell, through the dark night, if the fort had fallen to the enemy. But at dawn, when he saw the flag still flying, he was inspired to write the poem in 1814 that was to become our national song.

His friends called him “Frank,” which often blended with Key to come out “Frankie.” He had a high profile, having been part of Andrew Jackson’s Kitchen Cabinet, the unofficial advisers who were so influential. He defended a young Sam Houston in court on the latter’s trial over beating up an Ohio congressman. He was U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and he prosecuted the would-be assassin of President Jackson, who by the way was a Southern slaveholder.

Key, as a youth, had almost become an Episcopal priest, helped found two seminaries and wrote about poetry’s influence on religion. He also had a complicated and contradictory relationship with slavery. He personally owned six slaves, though he allegedly opposed the practice and eventually set them all free. Yet he did not do so for the many slaves his wife inherited and who worked the farm that provided much of the family’s income. He represented slaves for free in court who were trying to win their freedom, yet he was bitterly opposed to the abolitionist movement, and as U.S. district attorney, challenged its efforts. He strongly supported the colonization of former slaves in Africa, helping to found the colony of Liberia.

It is no surprise, then, that in the recent rush to tear down statues, his was toppled on Friday, June 19, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Today we have come to recognize that the imperfect Key is inseparably linked with slavery and pride in our nation.

O thus be it ever when free men shall stand

Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation!

Bless’d with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserv’d 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.