9/11 Flag Lost, Then Found, but How Remains a Mystery

The flag's original owner has donated it to the Sept. 11 museum
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2016 6:58 PM CDT
9/11 Flag Lost, Then Found, but How Remains a Mystery
File photo of an American flag.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

On Sept. 11, 2001, three firefighters removed a flag and its pole from a yacht that had been moored at a marina on the Hudson River and raised it at Ground Zero, and photojournalist Thomas E. Franklin captured the moment for the northern New Jersey paper The Record. It's become an indelible image; the woman who owned the flag (and yacht) calls it "the only symbol of hope that day," reports the New York Times. The flag was flown around the world and signed by the likes of George Pataki, Rudy Giuliani, and Michael Bloomberg, until it was discovered that it was not the real one. There was one dead giveaway: The autographed flag was 5 feet by 8 feet, while the one in the photograph was 3 feet by 5 feet.

Then, in the fall of 2014, four days after the flag mystery was featured on the first episode of Brad Meltzer’s Lost History, a man who called himself Brian carried a flag in a plastic bag into a fire station in Everett, Wash., and told the firefighters he was a former Marine who'd been given the flag by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employee, who'd been given it by a 9/11 widow. There are several holes in his story, and no one's been able to find him since he dropped it off, but the flag has been tested and confirmed to be the original. Original owner Shirley B. Dreifus has donated it to the Sept. 11 museum, where it is set to go on display. Meanwhile, WKBW reports that people are planting nearly 3,000 flags (one for every victim) in Western New York. (Someone stole a historic 9/11 flag in 2014.)

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