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.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Enemy Within, and of the Future

More than a year ago, I became aware of two young Pakistani American boys that were being held against their will in Karachi, Pakistan, at the Jamia Binoria Institute, a school or “madrassa”. Both the U.S. and Pakistani governments have recognized this school as one of the most radical in Pakistan.

Madrassas have come under intense international scrutiny for their anti-western sentiment and links to terrorism since 9/11, and since the London subway bombings three years ago. Three of the four suicide bombers who carried out the London plot were British nationals of Pakistani descent; two attended madrassas in Pakistan. The Binoria Madrassa is known to recruit Americans most aggressively. It prominently displays a banner supporting the Taliban. And it is documented that Osama bin Laden spoke to students at Binoria before the 9/11 attacks.

American born children are being sent to Pakistan and schooled or are well into their high school years and yet have been denied a formal education. Foreign born Muslims, nationalized here, are also traveling to these Madrasses for schooling as well.

It is estimated that these two boys are among 80 Americans enrolled in this madrassa. It is believed that there are 600 American boys being educated in 22 madrassas throughout Pakistan. According to researchers, the sole curriculum in these institutions is to memorize the Koran and indoctrinate their students into Islamic extremism. They are known to mass-produce extremists with a political agenda, including a narrow view of society and no tolerance of western culture. 

They radicalize Muslims and are seminaries for jihad. While I would encourage religious education to any child of any faith; Christians, Muslims and Jews alike, these particular political madrassas spread their message of hatred toward our country and others that live in freedom, including those in the Arab region and throughout the Far East. 

These institutions are creating a new breed of terrorist that has the ability to infiltrate our society as American citizens, come and go as they please, live as our neighbors and teach our children, all of which will be completely undetected. 

They can be potential time bombs planted in our communities waiting to explode just as they have in the United Kingdom and other places around the world.  

They are the enemy within and of the future, and until we realize that, our chances of success in the war on terror will be pretty slim.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A Congressional Wakeup Call

Recently, the State Department issued a report that incidents of international terrorism have increased by more than 25 per cent over the last year, indicating that the most substantial increases in terrorism were in Iraq, Within days after that report, the government of Saudi Arabia, announced the arrests of 172 Islamic radical fundamentalists who plotted to use air attacks to bomb Saudi Arabia's oil fields and storm their prisons to free inmates.

One week later, 222 members of the United States Congress passed legislation requiring a timetable on troop withdrawal from Iraq with restrictions on war funding.  Such legislation will severely impact General David Petraeus' ability to carry out his mandate, a mandate that Congress themselves approved.

What does Saudi Arabia have to do with Iraq?  What does one have to do with the other?  In my opinion,  it is a chilling demonstration that, nearly six years after 9/11, there are members of Congress that still do not understand what this war is about and who the enemy truly is. In an extreme turnaround, perhaps Congress should now watch and listen to the Saudis, who, in the past, we were fast to criticize, but who have come to the realization that this is just as much their war as it is ours, just as it is any country’s war that wants to live in a terror free world.

According to the Saudi Interior Ministry, the attacks in Saudi Arabia were to be carried out against government buildings, public figures, oil facilities and military targets, including some outside of the Kingdom. The extremists had the personnel, the money and the weaponry with some of the assaults planned by way of suicide missions. Does this sound familiar?   These are the exact same targets that are the focus of extremists today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Oddly enough, they could fit the description of the actual targets in the United States, carried out by 19 members of Al-Qaeda, in a plan designed by Osama Bin Laden, on the morning of September 11, 2001.

It was Al-Qaeda on 9/11, and it is Al-Qaeda on Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia today. To validate that it is, in fact, the same enemy and the same fight, all we need to do is review the most recent tape released by Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s chief deputy, wherein he speaks about Al-Qaeda’s fight against the west, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Algeria, Somalia and, yes, Saudi Arabia.

He then goes on to mock the recent Congressional bill setting forth a withdrawal timetable for U.S. troops, and, in doing so, sends a message to his followers worldwide that the United States has neither the patience nor the courage to fight this enemy. In his words, Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq were "nearing closer to victory over their enemy, despite this sectarian fighting" that has convulsed the country.

With grave concern, I must ask... What is it going to take for our congressional leaders to face the fact that we must remain in this war through fruition, if we are going to win it.  At this particular juncture, it would behoove Congress to spend less time opposing and criticizing President Bush, Vice President Cheney and this administration, and come to the realization as a nation, it would be detrimental  to lose this battle in Iraq.

It is imperative to understand that Iraq or Afghanistan are merely battlegrounds in a war with this new found enemy. Congress should reflect on 9/11 and Ground Zero, the first battleground in the war, and admit that our inactions and failures in the past to pursue this enemy led to our vulnerabilities on that day.

They should look at those responsible then and those leading Al-Qaeda’s fight against the west today.  Furthermore, they should  put all their political agendas aside, have the courage to admit the truth, and conclude that the war against terrorism will not end by withdrawing from Iraq. The most integral key to this conclusion,  is to remember that we are engaged in a war, not a police action, not an isolated battle or a diplomatic challenge.  The goal of this or any war is to win.  If we fail in this war, thousands of Americans, perhaps millions, could one day be victims of an attack that could tragically surpass the attacks of 9/11.

The time is ripe for Congress to wake up!