Flag flies upside down over New London post office for hours Thursday

The American flag is seen flying upside down atop the U.S. post office building in downtown New London on Thursday morning, Nov. 3, 2016. Flying the flag upside down is an officially recognized symbol of distress.    (Tim Cook/The Day)
The American flag is seen flying upside down atop the U.S. post office building in downtown New London on Thursday morning, Nov. 3, 2016. Flying the flag upside down is an officially recognized symbol of distress. (Tim Cook/The Day)

New London — Every weekday morning around 5 a.m., like clockwork, a member of the U.S. Postal Service’s maintenance team heads to the top of the post office on Masonic Street and prepares to raise the American flag.

As doityourself.com points out, the first steps are relatively simple: Unfold the flag. Grab the halyard, or rope. Attach the flag to the rope, making sure the top part of the flag is connected to the top hook.

When the fog cleared from New London on Thursday morning, however, it became clear that someone had botched the latter step: The flag was flying upside down, an officially recognized symbol of distress.

The move left some residents wondering: Was the responsible maintenance worker making a statement, or did he or she simply make a mistake?

Approached just before 11 a.m., two men in post office management positions, who said they aren’t authorized to speak to the media, seemed genuinely surprised — and even a little embarrassed — upon learning the flag atop their building was inverted.

One of them asked to see a photo of it before quickly sending another maintenance worker to correct the issue. The second was convinced the topsy-turvy flag, put up on a densely foggy, pitch-dark morning, was merely the result of a mistake.

The men did not identify the worker they said was responsible for raising the flag.

In a statement emailed Thursday afternoon, USPS spokesperson Christine Dugas said officials had determined the employee mistakenly attached the flag incorrectly.

She noted that staffers corrected the flag's position as soon as they learned it wasn't upright.

"We apologize for the error and stress that we take this matter seriously," Dugas said.

Although flying the American flag upside down still is widely considered a signal of distress, many mariners have taken to using the more visible maritime distress signal flag, which is orange and features a black square and circle, in such circumstances.

In recent years, the upside-down American flag has popped up more in protests than in situations of potential danger.

In the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s re-election, flipped flags dotted landscapes across the country as people protested the election’s outcome.

Earlier this year, residents from Washington and Oregon made headlines when they flew upside-down flags. The Pasco, Wash., residents, one a former Marine, told KEPR-TV they’d flipped the flags because politicians are taking away rights and ignoring the U.S. Constitution. The Burns, Ore., resident said he inverted a flag in January to show solidarity with the militia that had occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, according to KATU News.

More recently, a protester displayed an upside-down flag at a Greensboro, N.C., Donald Trump rally in mid-October for reasons unknown, according to the Washington Post. The protester swiftly was placed into a headlock by a man wearing a "Gays for Trump" T-shirt.

l.boyle@theday.com

READER COMMENTS

Loading comments...
Hide Comments