Folded American flag bears witness to Sept. 11 attack

9 11 flag Folded American flag bears witness to Sept. 11 attack

A photo of a folded American flag that was recovered from the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. (Photo courtesy of the National Museum of the United States Army)

By Caitlin M. Kenney

A folded American flag is pulled from the debris of the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Melted aluminum from the intense heat has burned through the blue field and reveals some of the red stripes.

This artifact is now in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Army and is being preserved so that future generations will know of the sacrifice and resolve of that tragic day.

The flag is one of only a few items where they don’t know who it originally belonged to. A common item in military offices and households, the flag is also symbolic of what happened to the country that day.

Damaged, but holding together.

gettyimages 1161209 Folded American flag bears witness to Sept. 11 attack

Smoke comes out from the west wing of the Pentagon building September 11, 2001 in Arlington, Va., after a plane crashed into the building and set off a huge explosion. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“The flag itself, rather than being a personal item of an individual who was there, it becomes kind of a national item, it becomes an every man’s item,” said Dr. Patrick Jennings, chief of programs and education at the National Museum of the United States Army.

“I really feel that the almost generic nature of the flag is what makes it so special,” he added.

In the days after the attack, the Army deployed teams called military history detachments to all of the attack sites to collect artifacts and record oral histories to document the history of that day, Jennings said.

The upcoming Army museum, which is expected to be open in late 2019, will include this item in a display that tells the story of the Sept. 11 attacks and how it set the course for the next generation of soldiers.

“When it comes to 9/11, we’re displaying very personal things, like a pile of change, a pile of coins that were melted down, a desk plate that shows burn marks… and in a way they’re silent witnesses to what happened that day,” Jennings said of the significance of these artifacts.

The Army lost 75 people in the Pentagon on 9/11, according to Jennings. Some recovered items have had their original owners identified while others are still a mystery.

“They are the carrier, if you will, they are the bearers of memory of these 75 people,” who were among the more than 180 who perished in the Pentagon, he said.

“So these are dimensional, touchable… remains of the memories of these people,” Jennings added.

Connect: @CaitlinMKenney | Caitlin@ConnectingVets.com

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