Mystery Man Who Returned 9/11 Flag Steps Forward
Brian Browne says he had iconic flag in his home for 8 years without knowing it was the one
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2016 4:04 PM CDT
Brian Browne stands in front of one of the many flags he collects at his home on Tuesday in Everett, Wash.   (Andy Bronson/The Herald via AP)

(Newser) – A man named Brian showed up at a Washington state firehouse two years ago, dropped off a reputed piece of history, and left, creating a mystery that Everett detectives and others have been trying to solve—until now. The item he dropped off is believed to be the American flag raised at Ground Zero hours after the 9/11 attacks, and the man has been IDed as Brian Browne, the Daily Herald reports. The story is a wild one, with Browne, a military memorabilia collector, revealing he had the flag in his home for eight years. He tells the Herald a fellow collector pal of his in Washington acquired the flag after the flag had supposedly passed from a NYC man who may have been a city worker to his wife (after he died) to friends of hers in Washington and then to Browne's collector friend. Browne himself entered the picture in 2006, when his friend, at a Veteran's Day event, offered him three flags in a supermarket bag marked "9/11/2001 flags."

Browne, unaware one of those flags may have been the famous one, brought them home and put them into safe storage (the supposed 9/11 flag was preserved in the freezer). It wasn't until 2014, while watching a History Channel program on the missing flag, that he realized he might have the flag. Based on what he saw on TV and "the burnt rubber cement smell" coming from it, he concluded this had to be it—but he was nervous about returning it, thinking he might, for whatever reason, get in trouble for harboring it. So he dropped it off at the firehouse that day and disappeared. He didn't know he was being sought until earlier this month when he saw a story about the hunt for the mysterious "Brian," at which time he came forward. The flag—which experts agree likely is the flag, based on Ground Zero-like dust samples taken from it and other evidence—is now safe and sound in New York's 9/11 museum. Read Browne's statement to police via the Olympian, or more background on the flag story here.
 

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