9/11 Flag Found: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

9/11 flag

The iconic flag. (Facebook/Everett, Washington Police Department)

The small American flag that was famously hoisted by firefighters amidst the wreckage of September 11 has been returned to New York.

The flag returned to ground zero in time for the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. However, where it has been over all of these years is a mystery, although it showed back up in Washington State in 2014, said Fox 8 Cleveland.

The New York Daily News called the flag the “symbol of America’s enduring resilience on 9/11.”

The History Channel is airing a program on the flag’s discovery and authentication on the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It is called America’s 9/11 Flag: Rise From the Ashes, and it premieres Sunday, September 11 at 10:30/9:30c.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. The Flag Was Featured in an Iconic Photograph From September 11

It’s one of the most famous photographs ever taken of September 11: Three firefighters hoisting a flag in the rubble. Some felt the photograph emulated the famous World War II flag raising over Iwo Jima photograph.

The 9/11 photo was taken by Thomas E. Franklin, a photographer from a New Jersey newspaper called The Record. The firefighters in the photo are Billy Eisengrein, Dan McWilliams, and George Johnson. Eisengrein told ABC News in 2011 that he thought, “This country got attacked, there’s all this devastation, thousands of people died; let’s do something good right now.”

Franklin is now an assistant professor of multiplatform journalism; his photograph was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. You can read his biography on his website and see other samples of his work. He has described what led up to the photograph in great detail; “I saw the three firemen; they were fumbling with the flag. It was shot at a distance, and it just happened,” Franklin told Politico.


2. Firefighters Originally Took the Flag From a Nearby Yacht

Firefighters found the flag on the Star of America, which was a yacht docked at the World Financial Center, according to The New York Daily News.

The sign posted with the flag at the ground zero memorial says that Shirley Dreifus, a co-owner of the yacht, helped identify the flag as the original. The New York Times says Dreifus and her now late husband “bought the flag for about $50 at a boat show in New York in January 2001.”

Dreifus and an insurance company donated the flag to the 9/11 museum, says ABC News.


3. The Flag Disappeared in the Days After the September 11 Terrorist Attacks

9/11 flag

Another view of the flag. (Facebook/Everett, Washington Police)

After September 11, the flag vanished, although this was not realized for some time. The New York Times says that another flag was autographed by the mayor and governor and taken to a Yankees game, but it turned out it was larger than the iconic flag and was not the right one.

A program on the History Channel had asked the public for help in finding the iconic flag, said People Magazine.

That program proved instrumental in the flag’s return.


4. The Flag Mysteriously Resurfaced at a Firehouse in Washington State

Fox 8 Cleveland says the flag resurfaced in Everett, Washington. “A man who only identified himself as a retired Marine named ‘Brian’ turned it over to a local fire station in November 2014,” wrote the television station.

“The only other information Brian gave was that he had been given the flag on Veterans Day 2007 by a man who had received it from the widow of a 9/11 firefighter…Brian then vanished,” said the station.

People Magazine says the man returned it four days after the History Channel program aired.

Everett police wanted to find “Brian” so badly they released a composite sketch of him to the news media, but he never turned up. “Everett PD is proud to be part of the effort to recover the missing 9/11 flag from Ground Zero,” the department said on Facebook.


5. An Analyst Studied Dust Particles on the Flag to Verify It Was Really the Famous Flag

The iconic 9/11 flag. (Facebook/Everett, Washington Police Department)

The iconic 9/11 flag. (Facebook/Everett, Washington Police Department)

Washington State Patrol Crime Lab forensic materials scientist Bill Schneck studied the flag turned into the Washington firehouse. He compared dust particles on it to dust from September 11, as well as comparing it to photographs of the iconic flag, and determined they were a match, said Q13 Fox. The original flag and the one turned in both had black electrical tape holding two lines together, said the TV station.

The flag can now be seen at the entrance to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at ground zero.

The sign with it there says that experts have determined with 99 percent probability that it is the flag, and says the History Channel also conducted an investigation. The sign says the flag’s fabric, nautical roping, metal hardware, attached electrical tape, and embedded dust particles “confirm its authenticity” and added that independent researchers from John Jay College in New York City also believe it’s the right flag.

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