In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, American citizens were extremely passionate about displaying flags and related patriotic merchandise in public. Newspapers like the New York Times even provided colorful printed American flag inserts that could be used for window display. Flags quickly grew more abundant throughout homes and business across the nation.
An artist and Long Island restaurateur, Ziggy Attias, recognized the cultural phenomenon of collecting American flags, and he began noticing that many, over time, had accidentally been blown off cars and scattered along the sides of roads and highways. One of these roads was Sunrise Highway in eastern Long Island. Attias had spotted a torn and weathered flag that was lying on the shoulder, and he decided to go get it.
“When I spotted the first flag, I knew that I had to pull over and retrieve it,” Attias said in a personal statement to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. “As soon as I picked the flag up, it seemed to have huge significance and marked by history. This was not just any flag; it was within a much larger context.”
Soon, Attias found it his personal mission to collect such flags, which had been left behind.
“It was a sad cold winter after 9/11 and seeing our flag like that would have only made it worse,” he said. “Gradually, I began to see more flags on the side of the road, and I found myself seeking a glimpse of the red, white and blue markings as I drove to work.”
Attias collected these flags throughout the winter of 2002.
“I found flags in many sizes, and at times, just fragments,” he said. “Some were stuck in bushes or trees, some mixed in with trash, some wet and muddy, others frozen in ice. As one flag gradually became a collection of many, the significance of them and all they represented grew.”
Attias recently donated his collection of approximately 150 American flags, of varying sizes and conditions, to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which is scheduled to open in 2012
“As a country, we were beat up as was our flag, yet, we are still here, and 'our flag was still there,'” he said.
Update: Here is a link to 27east's coverage of Attias' story.
By Meghan Walsh, Communications Associate for the 9/11 Memorial