Missing 9/11 Flag Returned After 15 Years

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The American flag that firefighters hoisted at ground zero in the hours after the 9/11 terror attacks, hold interviews at the Sept. 11 museum, Thursday Sept. 8, 2016, in New York. After disappearing for more than a decade the 3-foot-by 5-foot flag goes on display at the museum after it was turned in two years ago by an as-yet-unidentified man at a firehouse in Everett, Washington. The flag had been taken off the Star of America, a yacht owned by Dreifus and her late husband Spiros Kopelakis.
AP Photo by Bebeto Matthews

The flag that was hoisted above the rubble of the World Trade Center hours after the terror attacks of Sept. 11 — and which became a symbol of American hope and resilience after it was photographed by then-Record photographer Thomas Franklin — officially returned to lower Manhattan on Thursday.


The flag, mounted in a glass case, was unveiled in its new home inside the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. It occupies a prominent spot, by itself on the museum’s top floor, befitting its role as an important icon of American history, said Joe Daniels, president of the 9/11 Memorial, which plans to host an event Sunday to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the attacks.

First published in The Record on Sept. 12, firefighters raise the American flag at ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001.

“In a museum with so many important artifacts, this flag stands out,” Daniels said. “As we prepare again to pay tribute to those who were lost, this flag is a timely reminder of the spirit of our heroes and the resolve of a great city and great nation.”

Hours after the attacks, firefighters with the Fire Department of New York spotted a flag onboard the Star of America, a yacht docked at the marina near the World Trade Center. They took the flag and raised it on a lanyard above the rubble. The flag flew for only one night, however, and the next day a different flag was flown.

After that, the original flag went missing for 15 years. In 2014, a television show called “Lost History” aired on the History Channel about the mystery of the flag.

Related: The Last Living 9/11 Search Dog Receives Final Salute Before Her Passing »

Within weeks, a man in Everett, Wash., went to a local fire station and handed over a flag he said was the 9/11 flag. He left no identification, however, and police in Everett were unable to track him down, said Detective Mike Atwood, one of the officers assigned to the case.

So Atwood and his partner, Jim Massingale, spent months trying to verify whether the flag was authentic. They enlisted a crime lab in Washington state, which confirmed that the flag was embedded with dust particles from the 9/11 site. That plus an examination of the lanyard, which was made from two ropes taped together, confirmed the flag was authentic.

“Fifteen years later, I can’t believe this is happening,” said Shirley Dreifus, who co-owned the yacht with her husband, and who donated the flag to the museum. “I am just so happy the flag is back where it belongs.”

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© 2016 The Record (Hackensack, N.J.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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