Ground zero flag came from our yacht, say couple

A couple say they are the owners of an American flag that three firefighters hoisted amid the ruins of New York’s World Trade Centre in a photograph that became one of the most famous images of September 11.

A couple say they are the owners of an American flag that three firefighters hoisted amid the ruins of New York’s World Trade Centre in a photograph that became one of the most famous images of September 11.

Spiros Kopelakis and his wife, Shirley Dreifus, have asked the firefighters to sign an affidavit stating that they removed the flag from their charter yacht, which was docked near the trade centre.

‘‘We don’t want to be compensated for the flag, we just want to be recognised,’’ Kopelakis said. ‘‘We want this flag to be treated in the right way.’’

The couple has asked the firefighters, Dan McWilliams, George Johnson and Billy Eisengrein, to look at photographs of their yacht, the 130ft Star of America.

‘‘There were only three boats there, and ours was the only one with a missing flag,’’ Dreifus said. ‘‘I don’t think it’s a great mystery.’’

The couple said they would like to see the 3ft x 5ft flag displayed in a museum or as part of a trade centre memorial.

The firefighters said they removed the flag from a yacht docked at the North Cove pier on the Hudson River and erected it at the trade centre complex, a few blocks away, to boost the morale of the September 11 rescue workers.

A lawyer for the firefighters, Bill Kelly, said he had already arranged for his clients to try to identify the yacht.

‘‘If they can sort of confirm that’s the boat, I’m sure there would be no problem,’’ he said. ‘‘But I’m not even sure they’ll be able to do that because there were several of those yachts back there.’’

The flag, which is currently flying aboard the US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, has been seen across the world.

The photo of the firefighters raising the flag atop the trade centre rubble was taken by Tom Franklin, of The Record of Hackensack, New Jersey. It has been likened to the famous 1945 Associated Press photo of six American fighting men raising the flag at Iwo Jima during the Second World War.

Dreifus and her husband said they were at home, just a few blocks from the World Trade Centre, the morning two planes slammed into the twin towers. The office of their yacht charter business, Majestic Star, was located on the 89th floor of the north tower. Employees evacuated the building.

The couple, who said they had lost 95% of their business since September 11, insist they are not seeking any financial gain from the flag. They said they simply wanted the public to know that the flag came from the Star of America, which was badly damaged by falling debris.

‘‘We don’t really have anything to gain from it,’’ Dreifus said. ‘‘But if people want to charter this boat because it’s where the flag came from, that would be nice.’’

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