It is always flattering to get feedback from readers on thought-provoking subjects. Whether people agree or disagree, I like to know that what I’ve written has been important enough for them to respond to me via phone, fax, or e-mail.

Over the past few weeks I’ve received the highest volume of letters and phone calls for something I didn’t write; rather, the response was for something that didn’t involve writing at all.

Back on October 8, I wrote a column about the effects of the September 11 terrorist attacks. In retrospect, it was not unlike columns written by other journalists in many different trades. All of us in the print media were searching for something meaningful to write about in the wake of this tragedy.

Within the article appeared a photograph sent to me from Andrea Huttle of Comfort Systems USA. The photo depicted two employees of Eastern Heat-ing & Cooling/Comfort Systems USA, Albany, NY, hanging a U.S. flag on the side of the company’s building. Very patriotic — very noble.

But something was amiss.

Improper Etiquette

The flag was hanging with the field of stars on the right side. That is the incorrect way to display our flag while it hangs in the vertical position. Many readers responded. I would like to thank them for being so gracious and beginning their responses with “Your column was well-written and thought-provoking, however…”

I’d like to offer my apologies to anyone who may have been offended by this honest mistake. There is no bigger supporter of the United States and everything it stands for — and I want to go on the record with that statement. My father is a WWII veteran and I look up to his bravery and enjoy the stories of camaraderie and friendships that were forged out of serving our country. In short, I love the U.S.

Anatomy Of An Error

It took a number of unique things to happen for the photo to appear like it did. Here is a brief synopsis of the story behind the error.

The same day the photo was shot and transferred to The News, Eastern noticed that the flag was hanging incorrectly and repositioned it, but we got our signals crossed about sending in a new photo. On top of that, News staffers did not catch the error in time before the page went to the printer.

Eastern president Fred Giar-denelli said, “It was unfortunate, but we changed it immediately to show our support and unity with the country.” Huttle expressed her gratitude to all of the readers who responded, concluding, “Thanks for being so observant and for showing your respect for the American flag. Like you, we know the flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing deserving of our respect.”

Since displaying the U.S. flag has seen such a resurgence, many useful websites explaining how to display the flag correctly are seeing a lot of traffic. One of the simplest and most straightforward sites is

The site lists 10 informational tips for displaying flags, including the number-one tip: “The improper use and display of a U.S. flag… is worse than no display at all.”

Once again, a humble thank you to the many readers who took time out of their busy schedules to respond. It shows that you care about our great country.

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 11/19/2001