- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2002

ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (AP) The flag that three weary firefighters raised from the ruins of the World Trade Center on September 11 was returned to them yesterday in a solemn ceremony aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
The flag had been sent to the aircraft carrier in October as the ship steamed toward waters near Afghanistan. It flew on the carrier and six other ships in the war against terrorism.
As a sailor sang the "Navy Hymn," three other sailors handed the folded flag to two of the three New York City firefighters, George Johnson and William Eisengrein, who hoisted the flag at ground zero. The image was caught in a newspaper photograph seen around the world.
"This is truly a humbling experience," Mr. Johnson told the Roosevelt crew. Mr. Johnson then presented a fire chief's helmet to Rear Adm. Mark P. Fitzgerald, commander of the Theodore Roosevelt's battle group, as the crew cheered.
About 5,500 sailors and Marines were aboard the Roosevelt, which departed Norfolk on Sept. 19 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The carrier, due to return to Norfolk today, was about 300 miles off the Virginia coast during the brief ceremony yesterday.
The New York delegation included police from New York City and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Several New York members of Congress also attended the service, as did House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.
The third firefighter, Daniel McWilliams, could not make it to the ship because he attended the funeral of a firefighter who died in the attack, said Michael J. Handy, military liaison for New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
The flag was signed by New York Gov. George E. Pataki and former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani on Sept. 23 before it was presented to Adm. Robert J. Natter, commander in chief of the Atlantic Fleet. Adm. Natter directed that it be sent to the Roosevelt.
"I will never forget the smoky odor as the flag was unwrapped in my office," said Capt. Richard J. O'Hanlon, the Roosevelt's commanding officer.
"The image of that flag-raising event, determination evident on the faces of the firefighters, brought hope to a shocked and grieving nation," Capt. O'Hanlon said.
Mr. Handy said he will have Mr. Bloomberg add his signature to the flag, which is to be displayed in a place of honor in New York.

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