A U.S. flag that mysteriously turned up in Everett (WA) in 2014 has now been identified as the original iconic flag that was raised by firefighters above the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
The extraordinary finding comes after a two-year investigation spearheaded by the Everett police, with assistance from an entire cast of forensic experts in a variety of specialties.
Exactly how the flag wound up in Everett 13 years after the 9/11 attacks remains something of a mystery, but experts are reasonably certain it is the original ground zero flag that became an iconic symbol for the nation. The flag disappeared from ground zero sometime during the site cleanup and for years was thought to be lost.
“Ultimately, our detectives concluded that there was enough compelling evidence to determine that this was likely the ground zero flag,” said Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman.
The police investigation began in November 2014, when a man dropped off a flag at Everett Fire Station No. 1, claiming that it was the original flag raised by three firefighters above the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center.
The Everett Fire crew delivered the flag to Everett police for safeguarding, and over the next year, Everett detectives worked to investigate the origin and authenticity of the flag.
Detectives’ investigation included DNA analysis, photographic comparisons and eyewitness identification. Everett Police also had assistance from Bill Schneck, a Washington State Patrol forensic microscopist with extensive expertise in 9/11 debris. Schneck’s analysis determined that the debris and particulates on the flag and halyard were consistent with debris and particulates from ground zero.
Early in the investigation, Everett Police contacted the History Channel and Left/Right productions, which had produced a documentary about the missing flag, and Shirley Dreifus, the flag’s original owner. Those contacts provided additional assistance during the investigation.
Once it was determined that the flag was almost certainly the original ground zero flag, police began working with their contacts in in New York to develop a plan to return and preserve the flag.
The flag will be donated to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, where it will go on exhibit. The flag also will be featured in an upcoming special on the History Channel, “America’s 9/11 Flag: Rise from the Ashes.”