- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

The enormous American flag that streamed from the Pentagon ramparts a year ago and battled the wind in yesterday's encore was drafted from a military bandmaster who likely never will see it again outside a museum.
At about 4 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2001, the 20-by-38-foot flag, which the U.S. Army Band used as a concert backdrop, became the first national symbol of defiance to the September 11 terrorists.
Though sooty and torn, the flag was delivered to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History after yesterday's ceremony marking the anniversary of the terrorist attacks. For four months, it will occupy the Hall of Flags' spot normally used to house the fading and tattered Star-Spangled Banner that inspired Francis Scott Key's lyrics.
"It will be displayed here so the American people, and visitors from around the world, can see our true colors the colors of democracy," Smithsonian official Sheila Burke said after reuniting the soldiers and Virginia firemen who made certain our flag was still there.
Maj. Gen. James T. Jackson, commander of the Military District of Washington, is credited with ordering the search for a standard large enough to replace a rooftop flag shrouded by smoke on September 11. Gen. Jackson dispatched Capt. Victor Harris to find a huge flag the general recalled from a ceremony.
When the Army Band's flag was retrieved, Pfc. Jeffery Layne hauled the 50- to-60-pound load up a fire ladder to the roof of the five-story building. The 6-foot-8-inch soldier was chosen from an Old Guard platoon at the recovery scene. His fatigue uniform also was donated to the Smithsonian.
On a roof where fires weren't suppressed until a week later, Pfc. Layne, Capt. Harris, Sgt. William Wilkins and nine Virginia firemen prepared the flag while two other firefighters took down the one being replaced.
Alexandria firefighters Capt. Joe Warner, Brandon Russell, Scott Morgan and Joe Morabito worked beside Fairfax firefighters Greg Lange, James Morris and Randall Schwartz of Station 11 in Penn Daw; David Gaber and David Kannard of Station 38, West Centreville; Karl Sallberg of Station 39, North Point; and Robert Clarke from Station 1 in McLean.
The men affixed the huge banner to the roof and draped its broad stripes and bright stars over blackened portions of the Pentagon's western wall, close to the gaping hole where American Airlines Flight 77 smashed through the day before, killing 189 persons, including the terrorists.
For 29 days the garrison flag, the largest size the Army uses, hung for the world to see, spotlighted at night until an elite 3rd U.S. Infantry color guard ceremonially lowered it to the Pentagon helipad on Oct. 11 and folded it in the ritual tricorner.
The new national treasure never was returned to the Fort Myer band room from which it was "borrowed." It was placed in the care of the U.S. Center for Military History, which permitted its use in a St. Patrick's Day parade and during the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico.
The flag was placed briefly with a flag conservator, who created a custom-fitted triangular case, and then stored at Fort McNair. New commercial flags of that size cost $750 to $1,500 or more, but a flag consultant to Sotheby's auction house, Jeffrey Kenneth Kohn of Philadelphia, says that with the right paperwork the Pentagon banner now would be worth $25,000 to $50,000 to a collector.
"In reality, it's priceless. It would be almost impossible to put a true value because it's a singular historic relic, irreplaceable," Mr. Kohn said of a flag the Army is unlikely ever to sell.
The banner's use yesterday, and in rehearsals Tuesday, contradicted Gen. Jackson's Oct. 11 forecast that "this flag will never be flown again." But officials say it likely will be a museum piece from now on.
It might have become a different kind of symbol had one Alexandria firefighter not interceded on Sept. 12, 2001. The firemen and soldiers laid the giant banner on the roof so that it hung backward, which would have violated flag etiquette with President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on hand below and the world watching on television.
"I think it's the the other way," Mr. Morabito reminded his colleagues who then reversed the flag to put the field of stars to viewers' left, as required.


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