Veterans, police officers and bystanders stood in silence as an American flag flew in the Delaware Bay breeze for nine minutes and 11 seconds. Hands were held over hearts and heads were bowed in remembrance.
On Oct. 12, the Ground Zero Flag team held a flag-raising ceremony on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry as the vessel traveled toward Cape May. The flag, originally created by American Eagle Flag, was initially flown during the recovery operation in the rubble of Ground Zero at the site of what was once the South Tower. The flag became known as the Ground Zero Flag. The header of the flag contains signatures from various veterans and survivors from 2001 onward.
From the Samarra East Airfield in Iraq to the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, the flag has been raised all over the world. For the past 18 years, John Sullivan and Barbara Smith, owners of American Eagle Flag, and the Ground Zero Flag Team have worked hard to keep alive the memory of those who were lost during the 9/11 attack.
Sullivan spoke of the flag’s meaning, saying, “That flag is not just material. It’s us. It’s who we are. It’s woven in love and pride.”
The flag and a marble cross made from rubble of the South Tower were on the way from Williamsburg, Va., to New York City for various ceremonies during Columbus Day weekend. The convoy had previously held a ceremony at the Dover Air Force Base and were heading toward Waretown, N.J., the same area where the flag was created.
In a coincidental turn of events, Joseph Dittmar Sr., a 9/11 survivor living in Lewes, was aboard the ferry during the ceremony. He and his wife were unaware the event was happening, but were honored to be able to join in. Dittmar held the marble cross during the ceremony.
Dittmar was attending a business meeting on the 105th floor of Two World Trade Center during the attack. He was one of seven survivors of the 54 insurance executives at the meeting. Now, Dittmar runs the Always Remember Initiative and speaks around the country.
“This is probably one of the most beautiful memorial occasions I’ve had a chance to be part of,” Dittmar said about the event. “You mostly know what to expect during the ceremonies, but this was something completely different than I have ever experienced.”
The mission was clear: For a brief period of time, remember the events that seem so long ago. Remember the promises made and the people lost. The initiative was successful.
“This country made a promise to never forget, and many have. This is for us to remember. To never forget. That’s why we are doing this,” Sullivan said prior to raising the flag. “We fly it not just to show it, but to get people to stop and think for nine minutes and 11 seconds.”
As the sun was shining on the bay, so did a few moments of patriotism, serendipity and unity.