Iconic Flag Returns to Ground Zero

By Armand Butera

(TEANECK) – There are various images and memories associated with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, one of which is the iconic photograph of three firefighters raising the American flag amidst the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

While fear and dread were prevalent that day, that image, along with the undeniable symbolism of the nation’s flag, reminded the American people that they could overcome and still have hope, even in light of the attack.

The image gained an iconic status, but the actual flag in the photograph had disappeared shortly afterward. It was only recently that the flag resurfaced in Everett Washington in 2014, according to CNN.

The flag was recovered by a retired Marine referred to only as “Brian” and was dropped off to the nearest fire station in his area. Brian stated that he had been given the flag in 2007 on Veterans Day from a man who received the flag from a widow of one of the firefighters who lost their life on Sept. 11.

The Everett Deputy Police department seemed skeptical of how authentic the flag was, however. The real flag had disappeared just hours after it was raised 15 years ago, and any flags that were seen flying at subsequent events were not the same one.

When an official was selected to retrieve it a week or so after the events of the attack, they had received a flag that was larger than the one featured in the image, it was reported by CNN. The skepticism of the employees of the Everett Deputy Police department remained, yet it was the events prior to getting the flag that led to the belief that it was the genuine article.

William Schneck, a forensic scientist at the Washington State Patrol Laboratory, played a large role in determining the authenticity of the flag. Schneck spent weeks analyzing photos, fibers and dust particles.

Schneck found that the flag was exposed to the same dust that was found after the events of 9/11, and even more tests were run to confirm the findings.

“We wanted to be thorough and complete and be able to have the investigation stand independently,” Everett Detective Jim Massingale said in a CNN interview.

A particularly moving moment occurred when a retired New York Department officer examined the flag before it shipped out later that day.

“He actually grabbed onto that flag, held it up to his face and smelled it, and turned and looked at me and said, ‘That’s the smell that I remember from that day,’” Detective Michael Atwood said in an interview.

The American flag will now be displayed at the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum.