Threads of American history restore 9/11 flag to old glory

NEW YORK -- The Stars and Stripes stood as a symbol in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Crews working on the cleanup at Ground Zero flew an American flag on a burned-out building adjacent to the Twin Towers. By the time they took it down, it was tattered and torn.

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Jeff Parness
CBS News
"The souls of all the people who died that day are in the ash that settled in the fabric of the flag," says Jeff Parness, the flag's caretaker. "It's very powerful."

Parness started "New York Says Thank You," which pays forward the worldwide outpouring of generosity New Yorkers received after 9/11. In 2008, Parness decided to share the battered flag with the community of Greensburg, Kansas. Volunteers were helping victims dig out from a devastating tornado.

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Crews working on the cleanup at Ground Zero flew an American flag on a burned-out building adjacent to the Twin Towers.
CBS News
Sandra Jungemann, one of the first to see the flag, says it looked "almost hopeless."

"There were so many holes and so many pieces of the flag missing," she says.

So like modern-day Betsy Rosses, Jungemann and her friends used flags that survived the tornado as patches to repair the Stars and Stripes.

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Members of the Greensburg community used flags that survived the tornado as patches to repair the 9/11 flag.
CBS News
Parness then brought the flag to the 9/11 dedication of the USS New York, where he met Elsie Cintron-Rosado. Her daughter, Maria Ramirez, died on 9/11 in the building where the flag once waved.

"A flag is something powerful," Cintron-Rosado says. "It's something tangible, something that I said, 'OK,' -- that I could touch."

Parness asked her to place a stitch in the flag. And so began a journey that would take the flag to all 50 states. It was sewn by school children, veterans, survivors of Columbine. It has a piece of the flag that flew over Martin Luther King's gravesite, threads from the flag that draped Abraham Lincoln's body.

"This has never been done before in American history," Parness says. "There are so many artifacts of historical significance have been brought together and created what's become a modern day Star Spangled Banner."

More than 30,000 people have restored the National 9/11 Flag to its old glory.

"That's what I want this flag to be, a symbol -- from broken we are whole," Cintron-Rosado says.

A tapestry of American humanity that continues to mend a nation.

Footage courtesy of Scott Rettberg/Individual Entertainment.


  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.

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