This morning while watching the news there were a number of items on the 12th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and Pentagon. Over the last 12 years the United Staes has been in a state of war that was spawned from the events that took place that day. I am not going to go on about the war, or the current crisis in Syria. I’m not going to make any political comments, or reflections. I am going to say that 50 years ago this October, all of what we have might have been blown away. 50 years ago next month marks the anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and if you don’t realize just how close we came to all out nuclear war with Russia you need to take a look at the “Clouds over Cuba” website.
Produced by the JFK Presidential Library, Clouds over Cuba is a multi-platform immersive interactive documentary that shows how the Cuban missile crisis played out over 13 days. There are 15 in depth chapters that feature more than 200 recordings, videos, images, and interviews. Each item can be synced with iCal on your iPhone and iPad so you can play back the events in realtime. The entire crisis plays out to a final chapter that shows what would have happened if nuclear war had prevailed. The video below is a synopsis of the event, website, and multi-platform experience that was built using HTML5, Java Script, and Webhooks to complete the experience. This really is a great piece of interactive work that exposes the history to a whole new generation of individuals that don’t realize just how close we came to losing it all.
Today is flag day here in the good old USA, and because it is, I have decided to post a little bit about the stars and stripes. First of, and please don’t hate me… The first flag with 13 stars on it was not designed by Betsy Ross. It’s true Betsy Ross, was a seamstress who took over her husband’s upholstery business after he died fighting in the Revolutionary War, but there is no real proof that she sewed the flag based on a pencil sketch from George Washington himself. Seriously, there is no real evidence has ever been found to back up this Ross family story. Like many things that surround the origins of the United States, this is probably folklore that is so etched into our collective history that we take it for granted as fact.
In fact, most historians think the flag was either based on the British East India Company’s flag or designed by Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and early member of Congress. Regardless of who designed it, the Continental Congress officially adopted the Stars and Stripes on June 14, 1777. While the flag has changed from its original design to what we see today, the truth about Betsy Ross’ involvement with the design followed her to her grave.
The man credited with designing the current American flag is Robert Heft. Heft earned his place in history in 1958 while living with his grandparents in Napoleon Ohio. Heft’s updated 50-star flag began as a high school class project and was later adopted by presidential proclamation after adding Alaska as the 49th state and before adding Hawaii in 1959.
As a 17-year-old high school junior, Heft found himself in need of a class project. Heft proposed his flag idea and was turned down by the teacher. Working on his own Heft went ahead and finished his project, and received a B minus for his work. As a compromise on the grade Heft’s teacher raise it, if he could get the U.S. Congress to accept his flag as the new standard. Needless to say he eventually got an A. Heft’s stars-and-stripes flag has been the second longest-serving design since the nation’s founding.