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Find The Flag

Aired September 8, 2013 - 21:00   ET





RICHARD SCHMIDT, NEW YORK CITY FIRE DPT: (inaudible) we got some donations. We've put it all together. It was supposed to be just for 2002 to show New York City what 343 firefighters looked like in one group and it turned into a tradition now with the New York City Fire Department. Wherever we are, we remember the brothers that were lost in September 11, 2001. It's a very nice tribute, very simple but yet very impactful.


SCHMIDT: Oh we had a ball breaking. You guys realize what you get, look at this, turn around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good point, Richie. Yes, it's good point.

SCHMIDT: Do you realize what these guys are going to do to me after this? That's four years of material right there. I would get my balls broke about this. It's just not something that we do but I know that this is a good thing so that's why I don't mind talking about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We appreciate your sacrifice.

SCHMIDT: Well, yes, you have no idea what the sacrifice truly is.

DAVID FRIEND, VANITY FAIR: On a day when close to 3,000 people were killed in three cities, a lot of myth has come up afterwards about what really happened but in fact we have a record of what happened. Never before had so many people had so many cameras in one place to document one event.

There were thousands and thousands of pictures taken that day, of death, of destruction, but one picture that day emerged that gave us a sort of sense of hope and it was a picture of three firemen racing a flag, taken at 5:00 in the afternoon. When Americans saw this image they began to plaster it on everything, from coffee cups, to statues, to tattoos, to ticket stubs. It was the most reproduced image of this new millennium. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was all over. I mean, everywhere you turn --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then they still raise it up even though it was half cut, like half burnt, like some of it was still damaged but they still put it up to show like even though we're so damaged we're still rising to the top.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was in the Herald. It was in our local newspaper in Zimbabwe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen that picture everywhere.

FRIEND: This picture became how we said "patriotism" post 9/11.


FRIEND: Oddly enough, the flag in this famous picture really was a flag that came from the back of a yacht.

SHIRLEY DREIFUS: We had our office in the World Trade Center on the 89th floor of World Trade Center 1 which was the first building hit. We lived on Chambers Street, about two blocks away from the World Trade Center. Our apartment faced the World Trade Center so we actually could see the planes going into the building and our boats were at North Cove Marina which was right outside the World Financial Center which is attached to the World Trade Center.

FRIEND: Near the end of that devastating day, the firefighter named Dan McWilliams saw out of the corner of his eye an American flag on the back of a boat called the Star of America and he went over, climbed up, took the flag and it's pole off and fell in line with the friend of his, George Johnson, another firefighter and a third firefighter Billy Eisengrein.

DREIFUS: Unfortunately (inaudible) that has passed away told us right away that this was our flag. He told us that same day. He said, you know, by the time he got to the boat they had taken the flag and he went over to Ground Zero and he saw our flag pole and he saw the flag that they raised.

SPIROS KOPELAKIS: And this is our pole.

DREIFUS: The pole was right there.

KOPELAKIS: They took the pole and they actually transferred the flag into another pole, the larger one.

DREIFUS: So, we knew right away it was our flag and it was there. We just didn't do anything about it.

Our whole life was downtown. We actually met in the World Trade Center in 1975. You know, we lived on Chambers Street. We would walk down by the river and go to the office and it was just very pretty and then, anything you need it was in the building and you could go to lunch, you could go to dinner, and you could walk home afterwards. And it was very simple.

You know, it's sad every time I think about how nice life was then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In New York, this flag has found a new home. It was hoisted by a fireman over the World Trade Center rubble September 11th, just hours after the Twin Towers were destroyed by terrorist. Today, a few blocks away, it was raised over City Hall. In between, the flag is flown over seven military ships including the USS Theodore Roosevelt which recently returned from duty near Afghanistan.

FRIEND: While the flag was a centerpiece of a famous photograph, the flag itself became something of an artifact, and icon as well.

DREIFUS: It was supposed to be donated to the Smithsonian and we were negotiating the terms and just how, you know, put the name of the boat and just simple stuff with our attorney to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About a year after 9/11, the yacht owners asked for the flag back for a little ceremony on their boat and of course the FDNY and the city complied. They thought this was a good idea and they gave it to them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we got the flag, we were quite stunned that it was the wrong flag. This flag could wrap around us and we said, OK, this is not a 5 foot flag because this wraps around the two of us and we're not the thinnest people on earth and it still wraps around us. So, we knew right away it was the wrong flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is another flag that somehow became substituted for the original flag. Where's the original flag? And they went back to the Mayor's Office.

UNIDENTIFIED FLAG: But the city never called, they never did anything and they don't seem to care. They're very happy to make it sound like the flag is here and it was this big flag and this was the flag. And that big flag has everybody's signature on it. So, they're quite happy to say, "This is the flag," and leave it alone like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To this day, no one knows what happened to that flag.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This flag, is it one of the Fire Departments?

UDENTIFIED MALE: Smithsonian or something but I don't know what happened to it.

UDENTIFIED MALE: It deserves to be up in the sky, you know.

UDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would think that it would be in the museum that it would wind into the museum and it then it would be in the relic that they've collected for the museum.

UDENTIFIED MALE: This is icon of the century this flag and it is not any excuse for any politician not to try to find the flag.

UDENTIFIED MALE: By then Rudy Giuliani had passed the torch to Mayor Bloomberg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When New York Times, they went and they asked him. "Mr. Mayor what happened to the flag he then said (inaudible).


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: I don't know where Osama Bin Laden is even.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an answer of a mayor?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do believe if Giuliani was still the mayor at the time, Giuliani would have found it.


RUDOLPH W. GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: My goodness that was quite a picture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: DO you remember the first time you saw that?

GIULIANI: I do. I probably saw it, somebody probably showed this to me, sometime on the 11th or 12th before it was on the paper. Who irrationally thought of just taking it at exactly that time where the firefighters and doing it, performed just like a tremendous service for the country.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Work for which is the Bergen Record?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My recollection is that he was on the Jersey side and used a telephoto lens to capture that image. That's what I recall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The photographer from the paper.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's possible, yeah now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a story about that, about that image. It was taken by Tom Franklin who was a photographer for the record, the Bergen Record who just happened to be there, I guess he was actually down to I think 30 frames left in his camera. But he was there at that moment when they hoisted the flag and he shot it.

FRANK SCANDALE, FORMER EDITOR OF THE BERGEN RECORD: Tom's photo comes in and I remember Rich Julie (ph) a photo editor brings me over and he says, "You got to see this, you got to see this." And we huddled around the computer and he brings up this photo.

CHRIS PEDOTA, PHOTOJOURNALIST, THE BERGEN RECORD: And that popped out because of the flag, in all the picture whoever sent them. Everything was, had this grayish blue tint to it and there you saw the red, white and blue and you automatically double click it. It opened up and I sat there and I said, "That's an incredible picture," and Danielle (ph) was standing behind me and she said, "That's not a picture, it's an icon."

RICH GIGLI, FORMER PHOTO DIRECTOR, THE RECORD: If you look at Tom's strip, they're OK pictures but there was only one picture out of that whole strip, that was the icon picture. You know, you could be in this business your whole life, you're going to get one picture in your whole life and that's it just one. But also I got to be honest with you, I'm saying that image looks like Joe Rosenthal finish. I've seen this image, I've seen statues and it was like, it was this connectiveness, almost the same -- the same set up, you know, and I think that's what really made it happen.

Millions of people right away, they were able to associate that image because they've seen that image once before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously it's a simpler set up but it never struck me that way. And it was, tell me was Iwo Jima, did he set that up?

RODNEY HILTON BROWN, MILITARY COLLECTOR AND HISTORIAN: Well there's two original flags from Iwo Jima. There's a small one that they put up first and General Holland Smith looked up and he said, "Not big enough." And in true Marine Corp fashion he ordered another outfit to raise a larger flag that would be more visible. And it is the second flag raising that Joe Rosenthal took the famous photograph of.

It was not planned, it was not staged. It was guys doing their job and happy to be doing it. It was a lucky shot but what a great shot and what a great piece of art.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The single photograph told the story. Born of battle, defied the imagination of all American. It expressed the unity, drive and determination of the people. A symbol of American courage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before 9/11, the biggest selling issue on the newsstand of Newsweek in history had been the week that Princess Diana died, particularly a big historic moments, people not only buy more magazines but they keep them. When we saw the three firefighters hoisting the flag at ground zero I said, "That would be a great image for the Newsweek cover. And combined with the line "God Bless America," that we could, you know I could imagine people saying, "I'm going to keep this, I'm going to keep this and show my children and my grandchildren, what happened on this day and how we bounced back."

It absolutely dwarfed any previous cover of Newsweek in terms of news stand sales, despite the fact that the image, people had seen the image every place else. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The firefighters have never spoken, they've let the picture speak for themselves. The only time they've given interviews is for the print media and very rarely have allowed the camera in their lives. They think in terms of we, not me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what all firefighters (inaudible). So, to see these three firefighters do it, it said to me, this reflects all 11,000 and this is all 11,000 who would feel the same way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the photographer who took the picture Tom Franklin, it was sort of a bitter sweet thing. He became famous for taking this image, for capturing a moment and yet it wasn't his, it was the Bergen County Record that had the copyright. It was appropriated by, for all these different uses by all these different people.

THOMAS E. FRANKLIN, PHOTOGRAPHER, THE BERGEN RECORD: I've received as more attention than I've ever dreamed and it's been overwhelming. And then we've had thousands of phone calls at the office for people wanting to buy pictures and publications who want to publish it and billboards and people ordering tapestries. And it's very, you know, it just made me feel very uncomfortable and appreciate, you know, getting that kind of recognition but it's been, you know, a little uncomfortable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It became something that people clutched to their breast. This was my flag raising picture, this is well how people perceived it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everywhere today there were the flags.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we said earlier, 88,000 flag have been bought.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American people are sending a strong message of solidarity this week in red, white and blue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A rally build as a show of patriotism the other night turned ugly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't deserve to be in our country, they shouldn't be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why it's always been more than just a flag and always will be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a very, very challenging fact in this industry. I've never seen a demand like that. At Desert Storm, the demand was pretty great but 9/11 was a whole another level, a whole another level.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was just a tremendous search, we just were flooded. Fax, e-mail, phone, it came from every direction. There were people at our doorstep. Everyone wanted a U.S. flag. So, we were up to our eyeballs in stars and stripes at that time. Stars, stripes and blue field.

0:07:16.4 was pretty low key, so, you know, shared the information with us and said, "You know that was on either flag and, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very proud and honored that it was one of our flags and I think it just completed what that picture was all about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see the rebuilding starting with that photograph. That was the moment on which these three firefighters speaking for all New Yorkers and all American said, "Enough is enough, we're going to fight back." I think it gave me all those emotions because it's so eerily similar to the flag raising in Iwo Jima. And here they are, these three New York City firefighters, not Marines, not soldiers, but in a way they were like Marines and soldiers because they were the first line of defense we had against this invasion, attack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) about the loss of the Fire Department?

THOMAS VON ESSEN, FORMER FDNY COMMISSIONER: We've got over 300 people that are missing that we can't account for. We believe that many of them are -- it's just a devastating thing, I don't know, all the firefighter will recover but I don't know how.

When we lost those guys for me, you know, I felt like the father that had just lost so many, many children. These guys are told, "Get out of the building, get out of the building. The south tower fell, get our of the building." "OK boss but I can't, you know, right now I'm helping so and so." You know it's like, it's not like dropping the lady and they racing out, you know, that's first concern is somewhere else. That's really what bravery is about, you know, my opinion anyway.

TOM ECCLES, FORMER DIRECTOR, PUBLIC ART FUND, NY CITY: Shortly after 9/11, a bit two days late but it was really like a media thing. And a call where I'm told, "Hey go to the -- I want you to go to the Fire Department tomorrow morning." We've pulled up some money for a memorial to the firefighters that have been lost and we want you to pull this emotion, we want this memorial to be ready before Giuliani leaves office. We need to recognize our heroes.


IVAN SCHWARTZ, SCULPTOR, STUDIOS EIS: The Fire Department wanted us to make a sculpture and I was delighted because -- a job but at the same time, you know, 343 firefighters died. I don't think there was anything we wouldn't have done in that moment to do something. But when I saw the picture I was incredibly disappointed because I thought it so obvious, this is the kind of remake of Iwo Jima.

BROWN: This is the original sculpture of the flag raising in Iwo Jima created by Felix de Weldon while the battle was still going on and he completed the original of this. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 48 hours after the photograph had reached the United States, but this was only the first of many models.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this was made, you know, somebody said, "We're going to do this," and one of the guys just sat down and cut it out of a piece of wood.

ECCLES: Maybe 10 days later but when can I meet the guys? They were like, "Well we're not using those guys," I'm like, "Guys, the three guys." Right? You know, well we need the three guys because it's real.

VON ESSEN: They couldn't have handled themselves any better. They just couldn't have done a better job. They were just three solid guys who just did a great job. I never talked to them about it.

ECCLES: There was kind of something slightly wrong about the whole story. We're at this meeting, someone had suggested that there should be, they should be more ethically represented.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they came back to us and said, "OK we'll have one Hispanic, one black and one white guy," and so we were off. We staged the photo shoot and then we've made a presentation to the fire chiefs.

VON ESSEN: When I saw it, I said that doesn't look like those guys. That's not the guys who -- that raised the flag.

ECCLES: I was like, ay-yay-yay. You know, it's going to be a problem, like if I was the guy putting the flag out I'd have a problem. If I saw a statue and it wasn't me then it all went horribly wrong.

GIULIANI: They were raising the flag simply because they knew it was the right thing to do. And we will continue to honor them forever.

ECCLES: I know that day altogether. They came on my website, "oh my God, you better see this." What happened to the channel? It was like horror (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hundreds of firefighters petitioned against changing the ethnicity on the statue.

ECCLES: (inaudible)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Saying it's an alternation of history.

ECCLES: It was like every news channel.

SCHWARTZ: I started to receive what clearly was a campaign orchestrated by, I suppose -- I don't know the Firefighters Union.

ECCLES: They were terrorized.

SCHWARTZ: I think some of it was justified. If you're given an image and the image becomes so iconic, then changing the image ultimately is there will be a cost and of course that was the issue that finally killed the project. The people who owned the copyright said, look, we're going to sue you.

VON ESSEN: I thought the mistake they made was they made it too close to that statue and then made it too different.

ECCLES: That's the problem with reality, right? It's actually quite specific. It's this or it's this. But it can't be both of them.

FRIEND: When the commissioned statue was first revealed you've got to imagine what's going on around this time. They're still looking for their brethren who were buried beneath the rubble. They're still looking for so many people who were lost, 3,000, and that was the environment in which this sort of came up.

ECCLES: And it became contested very, very, very quickly, you know. Even to the point of who had access to the site, who didn't have access to the site, you know, fighting breaking out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quickly things got out of hand as hundreds of firefighters storm barricades surrounding Ground Zero. Police say they were prepared for a peaceful demonstration by the Firefighters Union because of a plan to reduce the number of rescuers at Ground Zero. But the mayor says the firefighters' behavior today is completely unacceptable.

GIULIANI: You can't hit police officers. You can't disobey the law.

ECCLES: In the mean time this, like heroes, you know, like first responders, all of that stuff was rising.

These images, particularly this one, had become a call to arms in some way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We once again find ourselves in trying times. As a nation, we've been tested but America has gotten up. America always gets up.

So many Americans before us fought, fought for freedom and with that freedom our past time has grown into our present time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know the real heroes (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now the world series --

BARBARA CIARA, JOURNALIST WTKR, NORFOLK, VA: I remember seeing that and thinking to myself this was not going to be one of those stories where you could in any way feel a sense of objectivity. You were totally invested in that moment and what was happening, watching that flag go back up.

Whatever boat was leaving we wanted to be on it. When the Roosevelt launched its first air strike, the flag from Ground Zero at the World Trade Center disaster flapped in the foreground. It has become a symbol of American resistance and resolve. That ship was the one that launched most of the aircraft during the initial air campaign against Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three, (inaudible).

CIARA: Everyone who touches the flag has an experience, perhaps they mourn for the souls who are lost or the innocent we will never have again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish I was in the front. I wish I had a rifle right now and, you know, take care of business.

CIARA: I'm told that's why the flag flies on the TR. It was New York City's way of saying "take care of business."

In the waters near Pakistan, Barbara Ciara, News Channel 3.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm Anderson Cooper. This is CNN.


DREIFUS: Why did the Navy asked for the flag to begin with? We're not really sure why that happened.

PATRICK BURNS: There is a flag whether it's Betsy Ross knitting the flag or whether it's Iwo Jima, or 9/11, there is a flag because that's what unites us. There is no self pity in that picture.

Someone said a plane hit the World Trade Center. The deputy mayor Rudy Washington called. Rudy said, "I want you up here." I jumped in the car and turned straight to New York. And I was on the phone most of the way and I was having trouble hearing Rudy, so I've pulled over.

I've pulled over hearing him in and it's this beautiful sunny day. I'm watching this person in her absolutely immaculate flower garden just on their hands, knees having a good time in their garden and in the phone Rudy screamed there are people jumping.

RUDY WASHINGTON: And at that point. I run back to City Hall and I called Admiral Natter.

BURNS: Because of numerous fleet weeks (ph), the deputy mayor had the Forster (ph), Admiral of the Fleets' phone number with him and he called up and said I need help.

WASHINGTON: And I said, you know, you're telling me they have more planes out here. I said, "Admiral, I don't know where they are." I said, "I need some air protection here."

ROBERT NATTER: And he said can you provide air cover? I said, "Well, you know, this is really a mission for North American Air Defense Command, NORAD."

WASHINGTON: And he started telling me, "Rudy, I got to go to NORAD. I just can't throw fighters in your airspace. I got to talk to the President." He said, "I just can't", you know, and I'm questioning him.

NATTER: And he said, "Well, I don't know how to get in touch with NORAD." And I said, "Well, let me try and get hold of them."

WASHINGTON: And he said, "Call me back in 10-15 minutes."

NATTER: I had the staff call out to Naval Air Station Oceania where we have our fighters based and told them to arm some of the fighters with sidewinder missiles.

WASHINGTON: And the Admiral is telling me, you know, that he's waiting on clearance from NORAD.

NATTER: But when I asked for an update on where we were with getting the aircraft launched, I was told about this peacetime restriction and I said, ignore the peacetime restrictions, load them and launch the aircraft. Send them out there and then we'll try and figure it out who's in command.

WASHINGTON: And as I'm talking to the Admiral, his words are "Rudy, Rudy, I got the clearance to come into you airspace." The building starts to shake and the phone goes dead. As I make it to the front door to try to assist the people that was trapped in the parking lot in the plume, the fighter just dropped in. But that set off another round of panic on the street.

BURNS: From the civil war until 9/11, you were under posse comitatus and the military did not support domestic events in any way. To release jets to go support your own city under attack is kind of unprecedented.

NATTER: Which is really what the Navy is all about, that is the ability to respond very quickly without a lot of instruction from, you know, higher ups.

WASHINGTON: I also did the event for Prayer for America. I insisted that Admiral Natter because he was my partner from 10 minutes in to the end, I insisted that he'd be in the program.


UNKNOWN FEMALE: Admiral Robert Natter.


NATTER: These images of our history are now joined for eternity was the actions of three New York City firemen determined to erect the flag staff and hoist our colors over the rubble that was the World Trade Center.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NATTER: Michael Brady. Bob Natter, how are you doing? Do you have a minute?

MICHAEL BRADY: Yes, I sure do.

NATTER: OK. I got you on speaker phone and we got some questions with respect to the flag. Do you remember under the stadium before the ceremony that you came over and said, "Hey, I'd like you to sign the flag" and I said "I didn't think it was appropriate for me to sign it."

BRADY: Right.

NATTER: That flag. Do you -- the interest is where did the flag come from, how did it get on the Roosevelt?

BRADY: Yes sir. I'm trying to remember the details.

NATTER: I remember Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani had signed it.

BRADY: I know it came from the Mayor's Office and we were under assumption it was that flag that was in that iconic photo. We weren't real sure, but that's what the Mayor's Office had told us at the time.

DREIFUS: That's not the flag that they've raised on 9/11. The flag that went to the Yankee Stadium or was on the ship could not have been the flag that was in the photograph.

VON ESSEN: You want me to ask my brother?

It was one of my drivers. He's the guy that told me that there was going to be a disaster with the statue. He's the one who told me. I didn't get it. So listen. Part of the story, they're working on the flag raising right from those three guys who put the flag up and everything. The guy is saying to me that they -- he has heard, he has no idea over the accuracy of it then you asked for the flag, is that the...


ESSEN: That's correct? Tell that story again.

UNIDENTIDIED MALE: You came to me. The commissioner came to me and said, "I want to get that flag down there." We all looked at each other and said "OK, this is going to be a problem because we know the way the firemen can be very possessive about things and we didn't know whether that flag, if they would just be happy to give that flag, oh even if for the Navy or for the President or for anybody.

So what we did was we sent the guy from the press office down there. His name was also Gerard. I can't remember his last name. We sent him down there to get the flag. He came back, he had the flag. He said, "This is the flag." We brought it over to the Mayor and they sent it out on to the aircraft carrier.

NATTER: And then we flew it out to the carrier?

BRADY: We were -- yes sir. But we made -- yeah, there was a lot of accountability there, obviously. We made sure we knew the name and rank and the identity of the person who had constant custody of the thing on its way over. We were just afraid it was going to get lost.


BRADY: And somebody would say they just don't know where it is anymore.

VON ESSEN: So you think the Navy switched flags? Or you think they never got the right flag?

BRADY: The battle group got it around to several other ships in the battle group. Had them fly it and then get it back to the carrier. I remember that was -- there were some concern with, again, the accountability aspect of it, making sure it didn't disappear. But --

NATTER: I think we have better control of that than we did nuclear weapons. That's a joke.

BRADY: Nobody wanted to go back to you sir and say "We don't know where the flag is." So I think there was -- no, we took care of that part of it.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How big does that flag look to you?

GOGLIO: If you look at the proportions of the gentleman's arm that's in the middle of the flag to the field alone, it's larger than a three by five. I would say the smallest it would be will be a five by eight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's not the same flag. It doesn't look like it. You know, as -- at the time it was not a big event. It was -- you know, we must get the flag and make sure that it's out on the ships that are doing the strikes.

CIARA: That flag brought up emotion that is very difficult to describe. I've never so many grown men and women cry just by touching the piece of fabric. And, of course, it wasn't just a piece of fabric, was it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of pride and it gets me emotional.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: American pride runs deep through this ship and the flag has become the glue that binds it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see it on TV what it does really mean. It just makes what you're doing so much more -- wow -- meaningful. It makes everything come together for you. Makes it all worth it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christopher finds comfort in the flag.

NATTER: It's important symbolism because what else, what else are you going to hold as the symbol? You can't say that, "Oh, it's pain or it's retribution, or it's this or that." It's the American flag. That's what we all like in my remarks, you know. Tomorrow morning, it's going to be raised all over the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's breathing.

GIULIANI: It's Rudy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing? What's Rudy's recollection of the flag -- this flag?

GIULIANI: This was the second Sunday after September 11 at Yankee Stadium. I remember the event very, very well. Yes, there's Joe Walter, Senator Schumer, Senator Mendel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's happening there in this picture? Do you remember?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's only one picture also.

GIULIANI: You mean, do I remember who I gave the flag to after that? I don't. I don't. I don't.

GOGLIO: It seems like it's an awful lot of material he's holding. This is a three by five. If you compare the bulk of that material to this, it's definitely a larger flag. You know, we're used to carrying around a three by five. I can pull out any flag off the shelf and know is this a two by three, a three by five just by holding it. And I could have my eyes closed, the weight of it.

When you get used to dealing with flags everyday, you just know. You know, you don't have to look at the tag or the label. You just know that it's that size by the weight of it. It'll vary a little bit but not very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And welcome back to the USS Theodore Roosevelt. You know, back on September 11th on the afternoon of the attacks against America, three firefighters in New York City raised a flag on a pole in the debris of what was the World Trade Center. It was an emotional photograph that was captured. It became very famous and it's been compared to the photograph of the Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima.

Today, those firefighters are back joined by the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, and the New York Congressional Delegation, and they are going to receive that flag back.

DREIFUS: They got the replacement flag. So, the flag that went all over was not that flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will never forget the smoky odor as the flag was unwrapped in my office. This flag flew high over the ship and pointed the way to Afghanistan. Tomorrow, USS Theodore Roosevelt returns home. For now, our mission is complete, but the fight against terrorism continues. This flag which has flown over seven ships is ready to be returned to the City of New York. Its mission is complete too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the carrier came back, they brought it back. We had a big ceremony. We raised that flag up on the flag pole at City Hall. You know, it was large like big Megillah, but there are people who still swear that is not the flag.

FRIEND: Somewhere between 9/11 and the Yankee Stadium Ceremony, the flag went missing.

DREIFUS: How can a flag just disappear off the face of the earth? We've heard all kinds of strange stories like somebody cut it up and then selling it -- selling pieces of it, but I don't think that's true.

BURNS: We had a kickoff event last year in front of the Star Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian. And oddly enough, pieces of that flag had been cut of and sent to veterans to be buried with them. I'm glad they stopped it and saved the flag, and that's much less objectionable than selling it.

DREIFUS: I just think somebody has it and they're not coming forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After that picture was taken, that flag could have been taken down on that floor that night and somebody stuffed it in their shirt and threw another one up there because they wanted to save it, you know, memorialize it or, for whatever reason, they didn't want to give that particular flag up.

DREIFUS: I believe it went missing from Ground Zero that within the first 10 days, I think, my guess is someone looks at it and said this is a very small flag in a very big space. Let's hang a bigger flag. I could see that, so you want it to be seen all over. And I don't know what happened to it after that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also, when we catch a moment in video that's amazing, we've also seen what happened just before it and oftentimes what happens after it. Where a still photo leaves more up to our imagination, doesn't it? I mean, when you see that moment frozen, you have to ask yourself what did they just experienced before that?

WILLIAM CIRONE, VIDEOGRAPHER: It looked like the reverse of the Wizard of Oz and the Wizard of Oz is black and white, then when you get to Oz, it's colored. It just was the darkest, gloomiest paper flying. And I'm thinking, where am I? What country am I in? Am I watching TV? And I'm like, "No, I'm 45 minutes from my house in Budd Lake, New Jersey.

So it's 81 degrees at 12:30. If you're at home and you get bad news, you start to do things. You know, you find out someone died, you start to make chicken soup, you start to make a dinner, you start to do something to keep yourself busy, to keep yourself occupied. And looking down at these guys, I think that's what they were trying to do. They're just keeping themselves occupied because you can hear the firemen pass along, the emergency alarms going off, that chirping, that constant chirping. And it just keeps going and going and going.

And that's the first time that it hit me that there might actually be fatalities of firefighters. There's a line of ambulances, about 15 or 20 ambulances lined up down at the other side of West Street that you can get through. All the doors are open on the ambulances. All the stretchers are gone out of the back. And that's it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was really no -- is that Tom Franklin right there?


CIRONE: Was it? I should've followed him. I could've got that famous shot.


YONI BROOK, PHOTOGRAPHER: The first picture I remember shooting were of the kind of the fingers of the skeleton of the outside of the building poking through the smoke. And then getting in closer to it and looking down and seeing at the child's doll on the ground, shooting a few pictures of that and then seeing a few firefighters who have just gotten on the scene and we're just like didn't even know what to do, you know. They were just standing there looking at this pile. They didn't have all the equipment yet and it was this weird of feeling of like inaction when everybody wanted to be doing some thing. And I felt very much that these men who were standing on the pile were looking for their family, brothers looking for lost brothers.

I think that to me is why the photographs of firefighters were so powerful because that's, you know, it's represented -- it's a projection of our nation at the moment, you know, what we wanted to think ourselves doing. And I think the image is probably worked in concert with the national mood, you know. Those firefighters really were looking for each other, but then that reflected back onto us as we were looking at that.

So, for -- however long that lasted, 72 hours a week, I think that those photographs, the imagery contributed to sort of a feeling that we were like those firefighters for that moment.

MATT MAYER, PHOTOGRAPHER: We headed down along the waterfront near the marina. I looked and there were a group of firefighters carrying somebody on a stretcher. As they were walking they were kicking up the debris. And so you had these billows of white ash. As they pass me, I saw that it was another firefighter. And they carried him down toward the -- where some yachts and other boats were and sort of down a gang way.

This is the image here.

KOPELAKIS: Yes, yes, yes that's our flag over there. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I can see the...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see the rescue boats there.



MOYER: And I went down to photograph them loading the wounded firefighter on to one of the boats, and he survived, thankfully. And he contacted me later asking if I could share some of my photographs, so that he could try to piece together what happened to him that day, because he didn't remember.

LORI GRINKER, PHOTOGRAPHER: On my walk, I kept asking people for film. So I went around and then I was at the sailing club, where all the boats are docked. And that's when I saw this guy who was apparently freelancing for "The New York Times." I never got his name, but he gave me a roll of film. And he turned and we saw these firefighters take a flag off a boat.

LT. TONY "LIEU" TARABOCCHIA, FDNY: It was a flag from a boat that was down at the yacht club.

GRINKER: It wasn't like they went to a store and bought a flag.

TARABOCCHIA: We were taking a break down at the yacht club. And one of the guys said hey, Lieu, is it all right if I get that flag? And I said yes, sure, go ahead, go get the flag. No idea what he was going to do with it. But he went, got the flag.

GRINKER: I guess I saw the firefighters starting to walk. It's like they were going around and I was going in. So, by the time I got in, they were coming. And I found a window, and I positioned myself at the window. And I only had like 19 frames left and no more film. And I was on the phone with Robert Pledge from Contact.

And then I saw the firefighters come and I said, I got to go, and I hung up on him.

SGT. FRANK STROMMER (RET.), FDNY: I came in from West Street, and that's where the overpass was. And they were pulling equipment out.

But the reason we stopped there was, there was a bunch of firemen hanging out. And we were talking to them. We were trying to find out where they were taking people, what hospitals they were taking them to. We were looking for three other guys from my unit who were missing, Scott Nicholson (ph), John Mullins (ph) and Glen Pettit.

They had just pulled a fire truck out from the rubble, actually drove it out. And they cleared a path and we walked into the back. And that's where the other photographers were. And a fireman motioned that there was something going on in the corner. And we looked, and the fireman were raising the flag. GRINKER: I was right over them, and I don't think the firefighters were aware of me. They were just doing what they were doing. And these guys need to do this for themselves. I think that's really what it was about.

They start to raise the flag and there wasn't much wind, so I'm really saving my last few frames. And, you know, finally the wind comes and I get a picture of the flag flying. And I think the background had that, like, grayish-blue sky and then this light just shining on it.

STROMMER: I think at one point I almost got run over by a large tractor that was excavating material, and we really didn't think much of it then, because we had so much other things going on that this -- it was on the back burner.

We never really gave it much thought. Whatever footage we came back with that day, it went into a box, and we didn't really think about it. We talked to some other guys there. We moved on.

GRINKER: And then the firefighters came in and they said that buildings were collapsing and we had to get out. So we all left. And then building seven did fall.




STEVE MCCURRY, PHOTOGRAPHER: I have been covering civil unrest and civil wars for 30 years.

And I remember thinking this is the first time when I was actually able to walk or take the elevator up to the roof of my building to cover the story. Immediately after the second tower collapsed, then we raced down to Ground Zero.

I remember shooting from One World Financial Center and looking at this devastation and the firemen and the relief workers, and there was this flag right below me. And I remember photographing it because it was there.

To me, it was part of the scene out the window, but not particularly significant. I don't think I ever connected my flag picture with the flag in that other picture, in the sense that I wasn't aware that this was to become an iconic picture.

THOMAS KOEHLER, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: Seeing this picture like over the years, I almost just assumed that it was right in the middle of the pile, like right in the middle of like right in the center. They could have been putting that thing up in front of me and I don't think it would have dawned on me that even that that was going to become like such a symbol. At the time, you weren't thinking about a flag. STROMMER: At the end of the day, the -- we found Scott and Gabrini (ph) and John Mullins was still down at the site. But, at the end of the day, we still hadn't found Glen.

VON ESSEN: We all thought that it would be like you see in the movies, where you would have a piece of steel and someone would be trapped under it, and there would be some air coming in, some water dripping down, and they would come out a week later. We all thought that was a possibility.

But the experts told us that first night, which we never really told everybody at the time, because we didn't want to take away everyone's hope -- they were right. There was no survivors. And it was overwhelming. And I can't even say that word overwhelming.

Ever since September 11, I have been unable to say the word overwhelming without getting a vision of a widow who came to one of the meetings. And I -- I stood up and I said we were overwhelmed that day. And she jumped up and she said, you were overwhelmed? I'm overwhelmed. I have five children and my husband's gone.

We failed in giving her, her husband back, and I will always see that lady when I hear that word, overwhelmed.

KOEHLER: As the night went on and people would dig in and guys moving in with cranes, trying to save people, there you are with this camera. You know, it took me a while to like -- I didn't want to do it at first. I felt like, wow, I should be doing something better. There must be more I could do.

Today's date is September 11, 2001, approximately 2150 hours, person at the scene of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, doing film and video of the scene. I'm TARU Detective Koehler.

When we first went there, we were coming from like the marina side, I remember. And it's eerie thinking that we were just shooting this video and nobody else came out of there alive after this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what do you see now?

KOEHLER: There's the flagpole.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what do you see in the flagpole?

KOEHLER: There's no flag there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The moment when we found that, we literally jumped up in the air.


KOEHLER: Where is the flag?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of firemen over there. The flag ,it's gone. So it's gone the first day. It's gone within the first six hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They always assumed that this happened after the picture was published. The picture was first published on the 12th in New Jersey, and on the 13th in "The New York Post."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So then the question is, who took it and why?

KOEHLER: I can't seeing anybody climbing out there and grabbing without someone, hey, what are you doing, even though were busy doing other things...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should be pretty simple to see a flag if it's there, stars, stripes. It might stick out if it there.

Somewhere in the archives is something that matters. It's like when that guy found that picture of Bill Clinton hugging Monica Lewinsky like five years later. It's this delusion that you tell yourself, like I never throw away a negative. Even now, I can't delete any pictures that I shoot on my phone or something, which is terrible. Sorry. I would remember something like people grabbing a flag or something like that.

That's where the boats are on this side over here. Where did they raise the flag? I don't even know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, here in the bridge across West Street, right?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And here in front of this building...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's where I spent the night, in this building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the flagpole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the flagpole?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: just the other flagpole from the boat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't ever realize that was a flagpole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's interesting that these nurses were there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. People came to help, I guess, but nothing for them to do. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there were a lot of people standing around?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Totally. And, like, inside this lobby was other people like them. There was real action happening here, dudes lifting stuff up and blowtorching all night.

KOEHLER: It does surprise me that it's not up there, though, if it's only five hours later. It's a tough guess, but my guess is that, like I said, someone saw it up there. Maybe it was wrapped up. Maybe it wasn't functioning right, and said, you know, let's get a better spot for this and moved it to a different location, put it on a fire truck or something.

VON ESSEN: You're saying that flag was still at the site when he went to get it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the mayor -- when the Navy wanted the flag, we were under the impression that the flag was still on the flagpole at the site where they raised it in the famous picture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So when the fire department sent the guy from the press office down to get the flag, they assumed that it was still on the pole. But it had been gone for more than a week. He had no idea where to look for the flag. The only people in the fire department who really knew where the flag-raising happened were the three firefighters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And why didn't anyone ask them?

KOEHLER: Well, my guess is that they got a flag, but they didn't get the flag. And maybe no one knows what flag that is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened to the flag?

TARABOCCHIA: You know, I don't know whatever ever happened with the flag. I think it's been all over the country. Pinpointing where it went, couldn't tell you.

GRINKER: They didn't connect the boat with this until, like, weeks later.

When I was talking to that "New York Times" guy, he saw them take the flag and he took a picture of it. And I have never been able to figure out who he is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's some -- a lot of hope that the flag will be found? I just cannot believe that anybody would...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to see this guy soon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have just tracked him down. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's got a flag in his hand. Do you think that's the flag? So what does he do with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations. Did you know who is this guy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have spent a long time with people trying to find him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes? It's difficult to know from his back. Do you think it can be one of the three?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a totally different firemen. It's not one of the three.

LT. BRIAN BURIK, FDNY: To be honest, I'm not sure what day it was.

It was shortly after 9/11, one of the first couple days. And we had been down searching. We were completely exhausted. And I remember there being so much media on the left side of West Street, and there was nobody to the right side of West Street.

And the last thing you want at that point of your day is to have anybody filming you or taking pictures of you. So we wound up going to the right, which was a lot quieter.

And on the way, I wound up taking out the flag I had and taking a look at it. After a few steps, some photographer popped out of nowhere. I don't know where he came from. But he just started snapping, and I took my flag and I just held it up in the air and went back to -- went back to walking back to the firehouse.

You don't want to clean it, you know? There's memories in those ashes. And it's meant to keep for a long time.

It didn't seem fitting to leave the country's colors down in the dust and debris. It felt like you were picking up a person almost or something grander than that, some -- a feeling of a country.




KOEHLER: I would rather not know where it is. If you had the actual flag, I don't know -- I guess the cynic in me, then people will want it. You put a price on it. I don't know. Then it becomes something else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The flag is sort of like the magical object in a way, just like the Torah scroll for the Jews, where it's a book. It's just physical. It doesn't have any meaning to it. But everybody imbues it with a certain kind of -- it has a holiness. A Torah scroll, when you pass, you have to kiss it. You know what I mean? When you see it, you have to stand up. It's like a flag.

It's an inanimate object that, because of our culture, because of who we are, becomes something greater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's just consider what old glory is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It stirs a different sense in all of us. I think there's one meaning of the flag, but many interpretations. And each of us can have a personal connection with that symbol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not a country based on religion or ethnicity or even cultural heritage. We're a country based on ideas and a philosophy. And that's what that flag is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes us all feel united. It makes us feel like we're bigger than just ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not until we're challenged that we reach back at what makes us Americans, and what that is and what the symbol is, is the flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this flag were to be recovered, what should happen to it, or does it matter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would matter. It would matter. It would matter to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it would matter to the families who lost their loved ones, because it's a relic of the dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened to these firemen and where are they?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you know, I think they never wanted this attention in the first place.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They never anticipated that this would become this...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody's first reaction who is a hero is to say, I'm not.

BILL EISENGREIN, FDNY: My name is Bill Eisengrein. I'm the firefighter on the right. On the left is George Johnson. And at the center is Dan McWilliams.

It was literally over in just a few minutes. We found a spot and raised the flag. The three of us looked at each other. We looked at the flag and that was that. It was kind of no big deal. And I'm sure Danny and George feel the same way.

We just felt that we had other things that needed to be accomplished right then. There were thousands of missing people, that that was our mission, to try to find them and bring them home. Dealing with a picture on the front of the paper really didn't matter at that point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were remembered for something, what would you want to be remembered for?

EISENGREIN: Hmm. I would just like to be remembered as one of the people down there that did what we did to bring these people home. You know, nobody in particular did anything more than the other guy. And everybody did their part, and we brought whomever we could home.