NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An American flag hoisted at ground zero hours after the Sept. 11 terror attacks has taken its place at the World Trade Center complex after disappearing for more than a decade.
The 3-foot-by-5-foot flag went on display Thursday at the National Sept. 11 Museum.
The museum’s president, Joe Daniels, calls it “one of the most emotionally and historically powerful” artifacts in the collection.
The flag was the centerpiece of a photo that became a defining image of patriotic perseverance. The image shows three firefighters raising the flag over the rubble of the World Trade Center.
The flag traveled to Yankee Stadium and a Naval vessel in the Middle East, but the one that returned to New York was larger. The original mysteriously disappeared.
“For a long time people didn’t know it was missing until someone made the comparison between the original and what was there,” Daniels told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.
In 2014, author Brad Meltzer featured the mystery of the missing flag on his TV show, “Lost History.”
“If I tell the story of lost artifacts on TV, people will help us find them” Meltzer said.
That’s exactly what happened.
Four days later, a man who identified himself as a former Marine named Brian walked into a firehouse in Everett, Washington and handed over a flag. The man claimed it came from a 9/11 widow.
“Said it had been given to him by a woman who wasn’t aware anyone was looking for it. Saw a program on television and wanted it to go to the right place, and he delivers this flag, that’s all we know,” 9/11 Memorial Museum director Alice Greenwald said.
Examinations indicated it was indeed the same Star Spangled Banner. A forensic analysis revealed the flag contains dust from the World Trade Center site, Meltzer said. The ropes, knots and black electrical tape also match.
“It’s a piece of 9/11 history that has finally come home,” Greenwald said.
Home to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, donated by Chubb — the insurance agency that paid a claim on the flag.
The man who turned over the flag has yet to be identified.
The History Channel will air a documentary about the flag’s recovery on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the attacks.
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