Hours after the 9/11 attacks, three firefighters had spontaneously used a U.S. flag taken off a yacht and raised it in the wreckage of the World Trade Center. A newspaper photographer Thomas Franklin captured the scene, creating one of the most memorable flag raising scenes since Iwo Jima. Franklin was working for The Bergen Record newspaper of Passaic, New Jersey. When the first hit hit the Twin Towers, his editor sent him to cover the event, but it was only in that evening that he captured this iconic image.
It was 5:01 p.m., eight hours after the attack. Three firemen (left to right, George Johnson of Ladder 157, Dan McWilliams of Ladder 157, and Billy Eisengrein of Rescue 2) — unaware they were being caught on film — were raising an American flag amid the ruins. Franklin, who had just 30 digital frames left in his camera, captured the moment which instantly came to symbolize American resilience in the face of the murders of 2,819 innocent people.
The photograph has appeared on the covers of many publications, including Newsweek, USA Today, Parade Sunday Magazine, and People magazine. It was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and the winner of countless awards, and used for a special U.S. Postal Service stamp released in March 2002 to raise funds for families of emergency workers killed or permanently disabled as a result of the 9/11 attacks. Franklin has been a guest on radio and television shows many times, including the Today show (three times), Good Morning America, CNN, Fox Cable Network, and Oprah.
A year after the attacks, Franklin reunited with three firefighters for a new shot of the men for his newspaper and Newsweek magazine, this time using the Statue of Liberty as the background. The flag, the day’s most famous artifact, has been missing for five years, so they had to do without.
Above, at the stamp unveiling on 11 March 2002. From left to right, Postmaster General Jack Potter, Eisengrein, Johnson, President Bush, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), McWilliams, and Franklin.