(NEW YORK) — In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, an iconic image of first responders raising an American flag over the rubble of the fallen World Trade Center provided a symbol of hope and strength to many Americans.
The ground zero flag, as it’s commonly called, went missing for years after it was lost during the cleanup of the area.
Now, nearly 15 years later, the flag hangs on display at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.
“In the darkest hours of 9/11 when our country was at risk of losing all hope, the raising of this American flag by our first responders helped reaffirm that the nation would endure, would recover and rebuild, that we would always remember and honor all of those who lost their lives and risked their own to save others,” 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels said in a statement Thursday.
The flag’s journey across the country continues to be a mystery.
The flag was originally taken from a yacht owned by Shirley Dreifus and her late husband, Spiros E. Kopelakis, which had been docked at the World Financial Center, according to a statement put out by the 9/11 memorial announcing the flag’s return.
In November of 2014, a man who wished to remain anonymous dropped off the flag at the Everett Fire Station #1, in Everett, Washington, saying that it was the original flag from the award-winning photograph. That October, the History Channel broadcast a show about the mystery of the missing flag.
Detectives with the Everett Police Department investigated the flag after it was turned into the fire department for safekeeping.
“We approached this as we would any found property case, but took extra precautions to ensure that the flag remained protected and secured during our investigation,” Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman said in a statement.
He added: “Our goal was to determine whether there was evidence to suggest that this was the ground zero flag and then work to reunite the flag with its owner.”
Detectives sifted through photographs and used DNA analysis and eyewitness accounts to authenticate the flag, according to a spokesperson for the the City of Everett.
“Ultimately, our detectives concluded that there was enough compelling evidence to determine that this was likely the ground zero flag,” Templeman added. “We then began working with our contacts in New York to develop a plan to return and preserve the flag.”
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