LOWER MANHATTAN (WABC) --An American flag that firefighters hoisted at ground zero in the hours after the 9/11 terror attacks returned to the World Trade Center site after disappearing for more than a decade.
The 3-foot-by-5-foot flag, which was the centerpiece of a photo that became a defining image of patriotic perseverance, went on display Thursday at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
The flag was turned in two years ago by an as-yet-unidentified man at a firehouse in Everett, Washington. Painstaking tests and examinations indicated it was indeed the same Star Spangled Banner.
With the help of the flag's original owner, Shirley Dreifus, in honor of her late husband Spiros Kopelakis, and in cooperation with insurance company Chubb, the flag was donated to the museum.
"In the darkest hours of 9/11, when our country was at risk of losing all hope, the raising of this American flag by our first responders helped reaffirm that the nation would endure, would recover and rebuild, that we would always remember and honor all of those who lost their lives and risked their own to save others," 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels said. "We had always hoped this special flag and its story would be shared with our millions of annual visitors coming from around the world, and for that, we are thankful."
Since its opening in 2014, the Museum displayed a large photograph of the three firefighters lifting the flag above the rubble as part of its historical exhibition. The raising of flag was photographed by Thomas E. Franklin, formerly of The Record of Bergen County. The image, which was circulated widely, captured the fortitude of first responders and became a symbol of hope and rebuilding in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
The flag had been taken from the Star of America, a yacht owned by Dreifus and the late Kopelakis, which was docked at the World Financial Center. Later, a different flag was believed to be the original. But the original was actually lost, and no one knew it at the time.
The History Channel will air a documentary about the flag's recovery on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the attacks.
The documentary follows the discovery of the flag, uncovering the mystery of its disappearance, and documenting the tests that prove its authenticity. The documentary also covers the investigation by the Everett Police Department, whose dedication helped to bring the flag back to the public.