A small group of Moorestown residents is encouraging community members to focus not on what divides us but what makes us one country.
Residents are encouraged to decorate Moorestown with American flags in what organizers hope will be a demonstration of unification and community. Participants are encouraged to share photos of their flags on social media using #CountryCommunityUnity. The organizers hope that Moorestown’s actions may inspire other countries to get involved.
Karen Reiner, one of the organizers and co-founder of MooreUnity, said the idea was started by Dr. Kristin Brill. Following the recent attack on the capital, Brill thought encouraging community members to display their flags might be a symbolic way to bring people together. When her schedule didn’t allow her to do the organizing, she reached out to some local community members to help bring her idea to life. Reiner was subsequently recruited to help organize.
Reiner stressed the initiative is not in any way associated with Inauguration Day or any political party.
“We just wanted it to be, ‘We’re American citizens. We love our country. We love our community. We believe that we can rise past divisions and find our common ground,’” she said.
Organizers immediately started getting a positive response as soon as they put the word out to their friends and neighbors. Some people even dashed over to Moorestown Hardware on Main Street to pick up a flag.
There was one person Reiner knew she had to recruit for the initiative: retired firefighter John Scully. Since the start of the pandemic, Scully has jogged every day with an American flag over his shoulders to let people know brighter days are ahead.
Scully was living in Moorestown when the events of 9/11 transpired. He had plans to jog the Philadelphia Marathon the weekend following the tragic events, and when he learned the marathon was not cancelled, he wondered how he could use the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives. His father suggested that he run with an American flag. So, that’s what Scully did.
He said his fellow runners were encouraged to pick up their stride and keep going when they saw the flag. He ran all 13 miles with the flag and even wound up with his photo on the billboard advertising the marathon the subsequent year.
Since then, Scully has taken his flag on a 13 mile run every Sept. 11. A few years ago, he decided to also pay tribute to the fallen on Memorial Day and began jogging 13 miles with the flag on that day each year as well.
When COVID-19 hit, Scully felt called to go back to his daily runs. He started jogging around six miles around Moorestown with his American flag, just to convey a simple message.
“There’s hope; things are going to get better,” Scully said.
His kids even made him a shirt to wear on his jogs that reads “Stay strong.” He said he met many wonderful residents who were nothing short of encouraging. He ran with the flag almost every day until Veterans Day, when he stopped because election season was near and he feared people would misinterpret his runs as some sort of political message.
Reiner saw Scully on one his jogs near the start of the pandemic. At the time, she was making homemade masks, and when she saw what Scully was doing, she reached out and asked if she could make him a mask using some of the American flag fabric she had on hand. The pair met when Reiner gave Scully the mask and have kept in touch since.
While they’re still working out the details, the duo wants to organize a run in about a month. Their hope is that Moorestown residents will join Scully or line Main Street with flags in hand to cheer him on.
“I think we’re looking ahead: maybe President’s Day in February,” Scully noted. “Let the wounds heal. Get everyone back to the business of feeling unified and giving them some hope.
“We’re going to get through this.”