I've been fortunate to have seen a lot of amazing things as a Freemason. But I saw something this weekend at the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville that I'll never forget.
We dedicated this reunion class to the Greatest Generation--that generation that fought the second World War. As things often do, we found ourselves running way behind schedule on Saturday. There wasn't a huge crowd in the Perceptory, but those who were there were no-so-patiently waiting for the class to arrive and the degree to begin--at that point, they'd been sitting and waiting for half an hour. That's a long time to sit and wait. The degree cast was milling around as they waited, and the Masons in the audience were talking and grumbling and checking their watches and phones for the time.
Suddenly, from somewhere high up in the seats, a single voice rang out. Somebody was singing the National Anthem. It was the Commander in Chief of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville (IL), the Illustrious Brother Brian L. Pettice, 33. A hush fell across the Perceptory, and everyone looked at each other--this wasn't part of the degree. Soon Brian's voice was joined by another, as everyone began to rise, remove their caps, and join in. Somebody in the control room realized what was happening, and moments later a spotlight came on and illuminated the American flag beside the stage.
My friend Don Goupil was standing beside me on the Perceptory floor singing with gusto in his deep baritone voice. I'd have to admit, I've heard people mumble through the National Anthem hundreds of times at ballgames and other events, but that was the first time I've heard it sung with enthusiasm like it was on Saturday in a very long time--at least since 9/11. By the end of the song, I had a knot in my throat, and perhaps a tear in my eye--and I'm sure I wasn't alone. The applause afterwards was thunderous.
Many historians believe that the idea of the United States of America may have been born in a Lodge of Freemasons. I'm not sure if the evidence proves that, but I can tell you without equivocation that the spirit in which America was born is still alive and well amongst Freemasons today.
Todd E. Creason is an author and novelist
whose work includes the award-winning non-fiction historical series Famous American Freemasons and the novels One Last Shot (2011) and A Shot After Midnight (2012). He's currently working on the third novel
Shot to Hell which will be released in Spring 2014.