(CNN) – On September 11, 2001, amid the ashes of the World Trade Center, three New York City firefighters raised a small American flag removed from a nearby yacht. It was 5 p.m. on a day that was going to radically change the course of history.
The image, captured by a photographer for The Bergen Record, it became a symbol of hope and resilience in the face of tragedy. But, a few hours later, the flag disappeared from the World Trade Center site.
Fifteen years later, in 2016, the iconic flag returned to the city. They relocated her to the entrance of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, built on ground zero.
His reappearance is as mysterious as his disappearance.
A CNN movie documented the disappearance of the 9/11 flag
The mystery of what happened to the flag was the subject of the CNN movie The flag (2013).
The original flag was “lost, stolen or hidden in the chaos of ground zero,” according to Michael Tucker, who produced, wrote and directed the film with his wife, Petra Epperlein.
When an official was sent to collect the original flag, a week after the 9/11 terror attacks, he apparently received a larger one, which was displayed at subsequent events, the film’s director said.
That was the flag that was flown over Yankee Stadium during a 9/11 prayer service on September 23, and that was flown over the USS Roosevelt as the carrier sent missions over Afghanistan.
The original flag mysteriously reappears
The original flag eventually reappeared in Everett, Washington.
A man identified only as “Brian,” a retired Marine, returned her to a local fire station in November 2014.
The only information Brian gave was that a man gave him the flag on Veterans Day 2007. Previously, that man had received it from the widow of a 9/11 firefighter, Everett’s deputy chief of police said, Mark St. Clair. Then Brian disappeared.
Among the people who died that fateful day were 343 firefighters.
Everett detectives began their search for Brian. They even published a sketch of it in local newspapers in the hope that it would be identified and could provide more useful information about the flag. However, their efforts proved futile.
The DNA discovered on electrical tape on the flag’s halyard did not match that of any of the three firefighters who raised the flag on September 11, nor that of the owners and crew of the yacht where the flag was originally flown.
Forensic tests confirmed authenticity
In the Washington State Patrol laboratory, forensic scientist William Schneck spent weeks analyzing the photos, the flag fibers and thousands of dust particles, comparing them to a pure sample of the World Trade Center dust taken from a fire engine. of New York City at ground zero.
The material composition matched. According to the lab report, the flag and its strings had been exposed to the World Trade Center dust cloud in September 2001.
“We wanted to be thorough and thorough, and for the investigation to be kept independent,” said Everett Detective Jim Massingale, a retired Army Ranger. “We knew she was going to be tested.”
A retired New York police officer who later worked for the Everett Police Department held the flag up as it was packaged for shipment to New York.
“He actually grabbed that flag, brought it up to his face and smelled it, looked at me and said, ‘That’s the smell I remember from that day,'” Detective Michael Atwood recounted.