The Mysterious Disappearance of This Iconic 9/11 Flag Has Been Solved

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The iconic 9/11 flag from Ground Zero is back in its rightful place. The 3-by-5 foot flag became a national symbol of resilience and strength after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed thousands.

You know it — it’s the subject of perhaps the most powerful photograph of our generation. Three firefighters, standing amongst rubble, hoisting the American flag on kneeling flag pole. A collapsed World Trade Center building looks like a mountain in the background.

A photographer for local New Jersey paper The Bergen Record took the picture. Since then, the image has appeared everywhere, including commemorative post office stamps.


But the flag from the picture mysteriously disappeared amid the rescue efforts that day. Then, two years ago, a mysterious man known only as “Brian” turned the flag in at a fire station in Everett, Wash.

Brian, a marine who served in Iraq, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave him the flag on Veteran’s day in 2007. The organization received the flag from from a widow whose husband died in the attacks.

Brian Meltzer hosts a show called Lost History for The History Channel. On Oct. 31, 2014, the show featured the missing flag. Mystery marine Brian says the show motivated him to turn the flag in.

Forensic scientists confirmed the flag’s authenticity. Amazingly, they matched dust on the flag to dust from Ground Zero.

9:11 flag forensics
NBC News

And now, the flag is on its way home. That is, to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which is built on Ground Zero in New York City. Visitors can see the flag on display there.

In honor of the flag’s recovery, The History Channel plans to host a documentary detailing the ordeal. Catch the special when it airs Sunday, Sept. 11 — 15 years after the attacks.

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The Mysterious Disappearance of This Iconic 9/11 Flag Has Been Solved