Thursday, November 09, 2006

History is Our Stories - The Yellow Ribbon

Top Photo of Ribbon from the US Library of Congress
Bottom Photo of the Laingen's by Greg Jenkins

We see them everywhere - Yellow ribbons - magnets on cars, tied on mailboxes and posts, tied around trees. But, how did this happen?

During the Iran Hostage Crisis, Penelope Laingen, wife of hostage Bruce Laingen, charge d'affaires of the US Embassy, tied a yellow ribbon around a tree at their home in Maryland. This began a nationwide movement. The Washington Post wrote an article entitled "Penne Laingen's Wait," which announced the yellow ribbon symbol as a banner through which families could express their determination to be reunited. Millions of Americans also tied yellow ribbons around trees and lampposts. They stayed up until the hostages came home - more than a year later. The hostage's families formed a support group and took on the yellow ribbon as their symbol. They began making and distributing yellow ribbon lapel pins.

The Yellow Ribbon is now a national symbol in this country. "A symbol of reaching out, of caring, of caring for our fellow Americans," said Bruce Laingen.

Though Penne may have led the first national response with the yellow ribbon, it is part of the folklore of this coumtry. It can be traced back to the Puritans who used it as a battle symbol, versions of the song "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" date throughout the late 19th century, and, of course, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree." It's use and meaning continue to evolve, but we all know when we see a yellow ribbon that someone is away from home and is missed.


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