By Candace Sindelman
The National 9/11 Flag has been almost everywhere. During its historical restoration tour it has been to all 50 states from the top of Mount Rushmore to the Crazy Horse monument. Now the 20’ x 30’ foot flag, transported in its very own triangular bag, will make its appearance in Sag Harbor where it will be displayed to honor those participating in the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Game this Saturday.
The flag originally flew on 90 West Street in New York City, until the neighboring World Trade Center was destroyed in the attacks of 9/11. It was eventually removed when Charlie Vitchers, the construction superintendent for the clean up at Ground Zero ordered a crew up the scaffolding to rescue the remains of the tattered American Flag. Vitchers’ original plan was to have the flag be nobly retired as tradition with any American flag that has been tattered. However, in 2008, Vitchers still had pieces of the American flag in a plastic bag at his home in Pennsylvania.
That same year, on the anniversary of 9/11 the organization New York Says Thank You travelled to Greensburg, Kansas to aid in rebuilding after a deadly tornado, Vitchers had brought the remains of the flag with him. The condition was poor; approximately 40 percent of the flag was missing. All the ladies from the Senior Citizen Center in Greensburg, Kansas stitched the flag back together. Where there was no original material the volunteers took American flags that had also survived the tornados and sewed them to the existing flag. Those flags were eventually returned to the people of Greensburg as the restoration project continued toward 2011 and were instead replaced by retired flags from several states as well as special patches to honor disaster victims and heroes.
Over 20,000 people from all over the country have placed at least one stitch on the flag aiding in its restoration including the family of Martin Luther King, Jr., World War II veterans, soldiers and schoolchildren who survived the shooting at Fort Hood, 20 members of Congress, and thousands of everyday heroes in the service.
Denny Deters, who is in charge of Restoration and Protocol for the National 9/11 Flag is confident that the flag has exceeded the 50,000 stitches they had approximated it would have by the end of its tour. Adding to its history, the flag consists of 90 patches, one of which is a remnant of the flag that cradled Abraham Lincoln’s head when he was shot at Ford’s Theater as well as another patch that includes several threads from the original Star Spangled Banner.
Phil Ingram, one of the honored guards and volunteers for the flag is proud to be a part of the activities and the New York Says Thank You Foundation, which is an organization that serves, as he put it, “as healing for us as a country, but also as a way of giving back and saying thank you to everyone that has helped New York” (after 9/11). “(The National 9/11 Flag) has been to amazing places,” he said.
The National 9/11 Flag’s final destination is the World Trade Center, where it will become part of a permanent collection at the National 9/11 Memorial Museum.
On Friday the National 9/11 Flag will be displayed at the Ross School for public viewing from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.