15 Years Since 9/11: Historic NYC Firefighter’s Flag Rises Again

9/11 american flag15 years later, the iconic American flag three New York City firefighters raised above World Trade Center rubble on 9/11 that later disappeared has been recovered and donated to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

The historic flag is now on display at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in commemoration of the 15-year anniversary of the 2001 attacks. With the help of the flag’s original owner, Shirley Dreifus, in honor of her late husband Spiros E. Kopelakis, and in cooperation with Chubb, the global insurance company, 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 to Shirley Dreifus, the city of Everett, HISTORY, A+E Networks, and Chubb.”

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, N.J. 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.

HISTORY chronicles the story of the flag’s recovery and journey back to New York in the special “Ground Zero Flag Found,” featuring best-selling author and HISTORY host Brad Meltzer. It premieres Sunday, Sept. 11, at 10:30 p.m., ET/PT.

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 Washington state’s Everett Police Department, whose dedication helped to bring the flag back to the public.

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is the nonprofit organization that oversees operations for the 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Memorial Museum. Located on eight of the 16 acres of the World Trade Center site, the Memorial and Museum remember and honor the 2,983 people who were killed in the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993. The Memorial plaza design consists of two reflecting pools formed in the footprints of the original Twin Towers surrounded by white oak trees. The Museum displays more than 10,000 personal and monumental objects linked to the events of 9/11, while presenting intimate stories of loss, compassion, reckoning and recovery that are central to telling the story of the attacks and aftermath. It also explores the global impact of 9/11 and its continuing significance through education programs, public programs, live talks and film features that cover contemporary topics for diverse audiences. For more information or to reserve a ticket to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, please visit

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