Nearly every day we remember 9/11 and how our lives changed in such a short time. Not only did we work in the World Trade Center, my husband and I met there over 30 years ago and lived only two blocks away. On 9/11, we lost our office and we were evacuated from our home. But we consider ourselves fortunate. We overslept so we are still here to remember.
For us, the only good memory that came out of 9/11 was the raising of the flag from our boat, the Star of America, over Ground Zero. That moment shown in the by-now famous photo, gave us as much hope as the rest of America.
You can imagine our dismay when we became aware that this historic flag was missing. In August 2002, we asked to “borrow” our flag from the City prior to donating it to the Smithsonian. We were hosting a benefit aboard the Star of America for children of firemen lost on 9/11. The firemen were going to raise the flag one last time on our boat and replace it with one that had flown over the capital. Unfortunately, the flag the City returned to us was not our flag. It was a 5’ x 8’ flag, not the smaller flag that the firemen took from our boat.
We met with the Mayor's Office and notified the City that this was not the right flag. They asked us to give them time to locate the flag. We gave them about six months and we then filed a notice of claim to begin the process of filing a civil suit to try to motivate the City to find the flag. We were told we would need about $100,000 to actually file the lawsuit. My husband and I were virtually bankrupt as a result of the impact 9/11 had on our businesses. Whatever money we had saved or could borrow, went to paying the mortgage on the boats and keeping our staff employed. We, therefore, had to abandon the lawsuit. With that, the City never pursued its search for the flag.
Every day we wonder if we did the right thing in abandoning the search. It is such an important piece of history. I tell myself that it is only a piece of cloth, but it symbolizes so much.
After years of struggling financially with the aftermath of 9/11, we had to close our business in 2008. Nevertheless, we still want to find the flag so it can take its place in history. We plan to start a not-for-profit to find the flag. We hope that it will be found in time for the 10th year anniversary of 9/11. It's time to bring the flag back home for America.
With this enormous hurdle behind us, we can start focusing on the things that help make life meaningful. It’s time to bring the flag back home for America.
- Shirley Dreifus
Any information you may have could help. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
These photos are of the Star of America before and after the attacks. Pictures of the flag itself are also below.