The Sailors and Marines aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt have received a very special symbol of America as the ship heads overseas following the September 11 terrorist attacks – the flag flown at “ground zero” in New York City. This is the exact flag raised by three New York City firefighters portrayed in a recent photograph that some media have compared to the historic image of U.S. Marines raising the American flag at Iwo Jima.

On September 23rd, New York Governor George Pataki and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani signed the -flag and gave it to Adm. Robert J. Natter, Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, with the intent that it be flown over naval forces deployed overseas in response to the terrorist attack. Natter accepted the flag and directed that it be sent to USS Theodore Roosevelt, the Atlantic Fleet aircraft carrier which departed on deployment from its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia on September 19th.

“This flag represents the spirit and courage of all Americans,” said Adm. Natter. “It has incredible meaning for all our Sailors and Marines, and we're proud to fly it aboard our most powerful warships. It will serve as both a remembrance and as a motivator for our forward deployed rival forces.”

The Navy will return the flag to the Fire Department of New York upon the Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group's return from deployment.

On September 11, New York City Firefighters Dan McWilliams, George Johnson and Billy Eisengrein anchored a single flagpole in about 20 feet of rubble and raised the U.S. Flag, an image that was captured by Bergen County New Jersey Record newspaper photographer Tom Franklin.

In addition to the signatures of Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani, the inscription on the flag reads: “Fire Dept. New York (FDNY) Div. I – World Trade Center September 11, 2001, New York, USA.”

About the photo:
Sept. 11, 2001 — the end of the world as we knew it. But in the chaos and rubble where the World Trade Center no longer stood, Record photographer Thomas E. Franklin captured an unforgettable image of hope — three firefighters raising the American flag.

Standing defiantly against the gray and white landscape of devastation, these dust-covered men and the vivid red, white, and blue of Old Glory instantly became a symbol of American patriotism. Franklin's photo of these three heroic rescuers — Brooklyn-based firefighters Dan McWilliams of Long Island, George Johnson of Rockaway Beach (both from Ladder 157), and Billy Eisengrein of Staten Island (Rescue 2) — also became a global message that life, and America, would go on.

The photo, which appeared Sept. 12 in The Record, has since graced the pages of many other newspapers as well as national newsmagazines. Network television has repeatedly displayed the photo during its round-the-clock disaster coverage, comparing it to the famous image of Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima during World War II.

Franklin, an eight-year veteran of The Record, took the photo late in the afternoon of Sept. 11, after spending hours at the scene. He was walking toward the debris of the World Trade Center when he spotted the firefighters.

“The shot immediately felt important to me,” Franklin said. “It said something to me about the strength of the American people and about the courage of all the firefighters who, in the face of this horrible disaster, had a job to do in battling the unimaginable.” – The Bergen Record