9/11 Firemen


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.

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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.

12 thoughts on “9/11 Firemen”

  1. Any lessons from 9/11 please?
    On the fateful day I was in Toronto. The world was in a shock and before long we saw both the towers were in rubble. The tragedy was unprecedented indeed. On that day some saner voices were heard on radio. I remember hearing to a General of Canadian Army going on air and saying “flying cannot be safer than it is now, root cause of the problem must be addressed.”

    Before you could realize it changed to a crusade with a demand to nuke them and on War on Terror in barely a few hours. How did this all change and change so dramatically? It was as mind boggling as the tragedy itself. After eight long years did any thing change? No. Did it get better or worse? Worse. Afghanistan is on fire so is Iraq both neo-con misadventures.

    So where have we gone wrong? It is time to think and reflect while not giving an inch or an iota to the perpetrators. We have had time to chill out. However big the tragedy God has His ways of giving solace and comfort. Time is the big healer. Has any thing healed. I would hope to think in the positive but I do not have evidence of it.

    Hoping that some self healing has taken place I would venture to say a few things and give solutions without delving into other things. To be very brief I think it is about time we did the following:
    1. Solved the Palestine Problem
    2. Solved the Kashmir Problem
    3. Developed Afghanistan before leaving the place
    4. Re-built Iraq and tendered an apology for killing 1.2 million Iraqis
    5. Ensured that Justice prevailed in general in all places.

    Just the other day pogroms took place in a place called Pune in India and the issue was swept under the carpet. Now if the frustration erupts somewhere the media frenzy would be of Muslims militants did this and that. This must not happen and it wont if the world community does not ignore injustices to people.

    It is the duty of the world to ensure such injustices are not done to minorities any where in the world. Something happened to Christians in Ojra in Pakistan the whole world stood up. Where are the authors of doom who projected Ojra in the world through Washington Post too, why are they quite on Pune that has seen violence by Hindus on Muslims and so many Muslims suffering.

    Saner elements among Muslims observe yet do nothing and while they should make a noise. Those sentimental who cannot raise voice will resort to violence. Now we do not have to give them the chance. If we are pro-active then the violent elements get marginalized and they should.

    Lets give the impression of even handedness and fair play and let not those in power get away with murder.

    I hope we have learnt some lessons for the peace and security of the world. I for one never condones any act of terrorism in any size form or shape. I am a firm believer and advocate that problems must be resolved on the desk with reasoning sans violence and early. Justice must be done and seen to be done and in time.

    1. All of what you just wrote has nothing to do with this photo…Idiot…time wasted…there are more suitable places to spew your political opinions…

      1. Agree 100%. I don’t know why the moderator of this feed has not removed such an offensive comment. It’s insulting to the memory of the 300+ firefighters and police officers who ran into the building with only the thought of saving people…it’s insulting to the thousands of innocent lives lost on that day, all because a bunch of rich, depraved, religious zealots from Saudi Arabia hated that we Americans are free people. Whoever you are Sayed Shah, please save your preaching for your terrorist friends who are surely in the 7th ring of hell today.

      2. Actually, it has everything to do with the photo, since the issues he’s addressing, if solved, would prevent terrorists from repeating the tragedy of 9/11 so that moments like the one depicted in the photo would never have to happen again. And not only does he make some very wise suggestions (and in an even-handed, fair, understanding manner that only asks for equal treatment), but the responses of you, and the two others below you, only prove his point and makes it clear why so many in the world hate, distrust, and disapprove of the West. Great job in being part of the problem, not the solution. To put it another way, stop being stereotypical.

      3. @Macster… Yes, I believe that’s called “blaming the victim.” So how’s that working our for you?

  2. This is such a great photograph. It really captures the special character of the people of this country: no nonsense, cooperative, and courageous. We do not make excuses for our woes; we embrace life over death, brush the dirt from our shoulders, stand up and give what we can in the darkest of hours. Where others see defeat, we see once more, opportunity. I will never look at this picture and not feel an overwhelming sense of pride for who we are, for the spirit and creativity that endures time and again. Indeed, God has blessed America.

  3. Sayed,

    It would take hours to put right everything wrong in your illogical post.

    Suffice it to say…God bless America, God bless Mr. Bush and God bless Mr. Cheney.

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