Showing posts with label Gary Sinise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gary Sinise. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Over the past several years, many people have asked about the photo below and the story behind the American flag sitting on my desk. In order to answer those questions, the following is the journey of that flag - from the devastation of the World Trade Center site, to the heavenly skies on the Space Shuttle Endeavor and back to the people of the City of New York.

At 5:30AM on the morning of September 12, 2001, New York City Police Sergeant Gerald Kane and Detective Peter Friscia from my office, were assisting rescue teams at the heart of the World Trade Center site, at “Ground Zero.”

Sergeant Kane noticed a group of flagpoles on Church Street near Chamber Street, amidst the devastation that were still standing. The flags from the states of New Jersey and New York were still affixed to the poles, but one pole was bare. He then noticed an American flag had been blown off of the flagpole and was tangled upside down on a streetlight several yards away. Noting that the upside down position of the American flag was the universal sign for distress, Sergeant Kane was concerned that if the press or media published a photograph of the flag in that condition, it would be seen as an added victory memento for terrorists around the world.

The two men recruited a number of soldiers and firefighters in the area who hoisted a ladder to the top of the streetlight. Detective Friscia climbed the rungs of the ladder to the top, untangled and retrieved the flag and brought it down to the ground.

Four of the soldiers and their Lieutenant folded the torn, tattered and ash covered flag.

Not wanting to leave the flag in their vehicle which was parked several blocks away, they decided to bring it back to my office. Upon their arrival, they told my personal assistant, Janet Fitzpatrick, that they wanted to secure the flag in my personal office and she recommended that they write a note and leave it with the flag so I would know where it came from upon my return - and they did just that.

That day, I had spent that morning with Mayor Rudy Giuliani at the temporary command center in the New York City Police Academy. We then visited various hospitals and went on to Ground Zero, after which I returned to my office.

As I walked into the room, there was an extremely strong stench of smoke, like that of a burning building. I saw the flag sitting on the corner of my desk and as I got closer to look at it, I realized that the overwhelming smell was coming from the ash covered flag. There was a hand written note sticking out of one of the creases of the flag.

As I read the note, I stood at my desk and cried.

This is the flag that flew in front of the WTC at Church Street. It was blown off the pole and was tangled on a streetlight. We as well as some firefighters and soldiers recovered it. The soldiers folded it. In Israel you said that we can’t back down to terrorism. You are right. You lead and we will follow.”

Just as I finished reading the note and was looking at the flag, Tom Antenen, my Deputy Commissioner for Public Information walked into the office and without saying a word, leaned over and smelled the flag I held in my hands. I handed him the note.

That flag remained in my office for the next several weeks and with the help and assistance of Mr. Richard Cooper, the Program Manager of NASA's “Flags for Heroes and Families Program,” on October 10, 2001, me and Mayor Giuliani met with NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, at which time it was agreed that the flag would be transported onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-108) as part of its December 5-17, 2001 mission to the International Space Station.

Accompanying the WTC flag on the Shuttle flight were:
  • A USMC flag recovered from the Pentagon attacks;
  • An American flag that flew over the State Capital in Harrisburg, PA on the day of Sept. 11th;
  • The shields of the fallen NYPD officers
  • Patches, posters and an emblem from the FDNY
  • Patches from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
  • 6,000 small American flags to honor those lost and those that served in the response and recovery efforts for 9/11.
In November 2001, I asked Detective Michael Jermyn from my personal security detail to represent me and deliver the flag and the 23 shields (police badges) of the New York City Police Officers that made the supreme sacrifice on 9/11 to NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Upon his arrival at his hotel, he requested that no hotel staff have access to his room, including the cleaning staff, during his two day stay. Upon hearing his request, a hotel manager and security officer appraoched him and asked if there was a problem and if they could be of assistance. Detective Jermyn informed the two men that he had custody of the United States flag that flew at the World Trade Center on 9/11 and for security purposes, he would feel better if no one was allowed access to his room during his stay.

Overwhelmed with emotion upon seeing the flag, the hotel manager upgraded the Detective's room to a two room suite and escorted him to the room where the flag was placed in the center of the bed in the second bedroom, almost as if the flag was "lying in state," pending delivery to NASA Headquarters.
In a moving ceremony the next day, the flag was turned over to NASA, from where it was later transported to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where Detective Michael Jermyn represented me and the NYPD to witness the launch and this historic event - from Ground Zero, to heaven.

On Flag Day, June 14, 2002, the American flag that once flew at the World Trade Center and the other items of memorabilia were returned to the people of the City of New York by Mr. O’Keefe and Commander Dom Gorie and the crew members of the Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-108), in a ceremony at the Rose Center at the American Museum of Natural History.

Today, this flag is secured and maintained by Mr. Brian Andersson, New York City Commissioner of Records and is used during the annual 9/11 ceremony at Ground Zero. He is seen here with David Webb, and actor Gary Sinise, a staunch supporter of our military, and 9/11 heroes.