On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, FDNY Firefighter Dan McWilliams spotted a flag
on a yacht—the Star of America owned by Spiros Kopelakis and Shirley Dreifus—docked at a marina near the World Trade Center site. McWilliams, along with FDNY Firefighters Billy Eisengrein and George Johnson, raised the flag on a 20-foot pile of debris on the site near West Street. The flag raising lifted the spirits of rescue workers.
Several photographers captured the moment, including Thomas Franklin, a staff photographer at a New Jersey newspaper, The Bergen Record
. Franklin’s photo, shot with a telephoto lens shortly after 5 p.m., was part of a sequence of images documenting the determined efforts of the responders to hoist the flag and appeared on the front-page issue of The Bergen Record
the following day. The photo was also released to the Associated Press wire, which resulted in the picture’s publication in several international papers. In the atmosphere of resurgent patriotism following the 9/11 attacks, Franklin’s photo became iconic.
In 2002, the United States Postal Service introduced the “Heroes” stamp featuring Franklin’s photo, and the image subsequently found its way onto thousands of souvenir products. Over the years, Franklin collected trinkets and memorabilia appropriating the image. He donated part of his collection to the Museum.