- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

RICHMOND — The high bidder in the online auction of an American flag said to have been flying over a construction crane at the Pentagon during the September 11 terrorist attack backed out of the sale yesterday, and the flag was put back up for auction.

David Nicholson, 44, of Orange, Va., auctioned the flag on EBay to raise money for his kidney cancer treatment.

Todd Schimmel, 26, of Mound, Minn., won the auction Monday with a $371,300 bid, but questions over whether the flag was really flying during the attack caused him to back out.

A request for comment e-mailed to the EBay account of the high bidder brought a brief response: “Flag is a fake Im not accepting.”

Mr. Nicholson said he called Mr. Schimmel, and that Mr. Schimmel told him he did not want the flag and hung up on him.

“He knew about the controversy during the auction but didn’t take his bid out,” Mr. Nicholson said. But, he added, “Everything happens for a reason, and it will all work out for the best. We’ll see what happens.”

During the 10-day auction, the Maryland-based construction company that gave Mr. Nicholson the flag, Facchina Construction Co., said it did not have a crane at the Pentagon on September 11.

“When the flag was traveling the country and on TV, they never questioned it,” said Shawn Peacher, who is handling the online auctions for Mr. Nicholson. Before deciding to sell the flag to help pay for medical bills, Mr. Nicholson donated it for educational exhibits across the country.

An update on the controversy surrounding the flag is included in the description for the new, three-day auction, which was placed on EBay last evening. The description also includes the full text of the letter of authenticity Mr. Nicholson said is signed by a Facchina site supervisor.

Despite all the flak over the flag, including criticism by some family members of those killed in the Pentagon attack, Mr. Nicholson said if he had to do it all over again, he would.

“I’ve no choice with this cloud over my head every day, this dark cloud, this death cloud,” Mr. Nicholson said. “I gotta do what I gotta do.”

In May 2002, Mr. Nicholson owned an auction house in Orange where he found the flag tucked away among several boxes of debris from a Pentagon site under construction.

Mr. Peacher, who handles 1,500 to 2,000 online auctions a week, said he has never seen anything like the interest generated by the flag.

“It’s one of the most widely followed and most controversial auctions on EBay,” he said.

The flag auction drew more than 180,000 page views, Mr. Peacher said, while most auctions generate 20 to 25 page views.

Some family members of those killed on September 11 have said that the auction would open the gates for others hoping to capitalize on the terrorist attack.

But Mr. Nicholson says selling the flag will help save his life.

“All these folks raising Cain about the flag, why don’t they pitch in and buy it, and I can get my treatment and get on with my life?” Mr. Nicholson said.

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