Nearly two years ago, a man who only identified himself as Brian handed firefighters at an Everett fire station a plastic bag with a flag in it. He said that flag was raised by three firefighters at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001 -- then he left.
Firefighters had a sketch drawn up and the Everett Police Department attempted to find Brian, but couldn’t. What they did find was that he had been telling the truth.
Every American remembers where they were Sept. 11. Everett police Chief Dan Templeman and Detective Steve Paxton are no exception.
“I was working at the Police Department, I was in training at the time,” Templeman said.
“My wife was making breakfast and she had it on TV and so it was very -- definitely -- very sad, we spent the whole day watching it,” echoed Paxton.
It hit close to home, but the two men never could have imagined then just how close to home.
“At first I doubted that that could possibly be true, it’s definitely such a big deal that it’s hard to imagine the Everett Police Department on the West Coast could be involved at all with having custody of the flag,” said Paxton.
He’s talking of course about the flag that three firefighters raised at Ground Zero on Sept. 11; the picture is heartbreakingly historic, but the flag was gone within days, its disappearance a national mystery and the subject of documentary on the History channel.
In 2014, when the mystery man appeared at the Everett fire station with a flag he claimed was that flag, the Everett Police Department launched a two-year investigation into authenticating the flag, collecting DNA and debris from Ground Zero, taking hundreds of pictures, and watching a grainy video of the actual flag raising.
Paxton said the rope that attaches the flag to the pole -- called the halyard -- was wrapped in electrical tape approximately 18 times, both in the video and on the Halyard at the Everett Police Department.
“So that was striking,” Paxton told us.
When all of the hundreds -- even thousands of hours of analysis were combined: “We concluded based on all those elements that it was likely the 9/11 flag,” said Templeman.
And 15 years later -- almost to that unforgettable day -- the men who found it are taking it to its rightful home.
“For us to be involved in returning something to the citizens of New York and the citizens of this country is very significant for us, and we’re really proud that we could be a part of that,” Templeman concluded.
Some members of the Everett Police Department are in New York City now to deliver that flag in person in time for a ceremony Thursday. The flag will be unveiled at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, where it will remain.