A tribute to the victims of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 is currently on display at the Fort Campbell Passenger Processing Center (PPC). The giant flag, measuring 22 by 32 feet, has a powerful significance as it has journeyed through various significant locations.
This handmade flag consists of nearly 3,000 small American flags stitched together to honor those who died and the hundreds of thousands who lost someone they loved on that day. It also includes flags of each responder organization that served in rescue and recovery that day.
Additionally, there are 86 national flags representing the different countries from which victims came, symbolizing the global impact of the attacks. Over nearly two decades, the flag has been seen by an estimated 7 million people as it has been on display in museums, government buildings, and military bases after its completion months after the September 11 attacks.
“I was on my way to work when I stopped by my son's school to drop off his project. At 9:03, I witnessed the impact of the second plane. Upon returning home, I lowered our flag to half-staff and began a quest for a large American flag for our front yard,” said Thomas McBrien, the curator, and creator of the flag.
McBrien explained that without realizing, that quest was the beginning of a decades-long dedication to honoring all who were impacted by the acts of terror on that day. “I wanted to display the largest American flag I could buy, but none could be found. I realized we, the American people, are all in this together. I began collaborating with the State Department and my local congressman and drew on my experience in community projects and volunteering.” Armed with information about every person who lost their life on September 11, McBrien put out a call for small American flags to honor each victim. The project evolved, and stitched flags grew into panels, and over time the flag was completed. For McBrien, a heartfelt response to tragedy.
The 9/11 Memorial Flag has been displayed in many prominent locations, including the Pentagon, state capitol buildings, military bases, and museums. "Even as the years pass, I hope this flag helps the memories live on."
Transitioning from "United We Stand, United We Sew" to "Operation Never Forget," the 9/11 Memorial Flag extended its tour to military bases, ships, and avenues where servicemen deployed, bridging the connection to those serving overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Each location holds a unique significance… a testament to the enduring journey and remembrance,” McBrien said.
“The kids who helped with the flag ranged from six to 17 years old, so if you add 20 years to their age now, they'll carry those memories for a lifetime. My own son, who was just 10 when it happened, joined the Air Force. After attending college through ROTC at Syracuse, he underwent flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Germany. Graduating with distinction, he is now a Major flying a B-52. Quite an incredible journey.”
McBrien hopes that people who see the 9/11 Memorial Flag will recognize that it honors all Americans, especially those who were personally impacted by 9/11, and that it is a symbol of unity and healing, a testament to the strength of the American people. “It serves as a powerful reminder that, even in the wake of such devastation, America can heal and prevail.”
The 9/11 Memorial Flag will be on display at the Passenger Processing Center at Fort Campbell through the end of the year.
"The 101st Airborne Division served in Afghanistan as part of the global war on terrorism. The flag, adorned with individual small flags representing names and nations, symbolizes the attack on the global community on U.S. soil," McBrien explained. "Many who served, particularly those from the 101st, still grapple with the aftermath. The flag serves as a reminder of their sacrifice for our country and the multitude of individuals, names, and nations affected."