WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 9, 2006) - One of America's best known red, white and blue symbols was lowered for the last time Sept. 7 at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, where it had been the centerpiece of its September 11, 2001, "Bearing Witness to History" exhibit that opened Sept. 11, 2002.

The 20- by 38-foot flag originally belonged to the U.S. Army Band at Ft. Myer, Va., but on the day following the attacks, Soldiers and firefighters draped it from the Pentagon's roof next to the impact area. For a month it hung like a beacon, illuminated at night with floodlights while recovery teams removed the dead and cleared debris.

Eleven months later, the museum requested the flag for its exhibit from the U.S. Army Center of Military History, which has served as the official repository for 9/11 related objects.

Before the retreat, Undersecretary of the Army Pete Geren spoke to the audience of museum benefactors and guests about the flag's symbolism.

"Since 9/11, these colors have performed the same function for millions of Americans that the star-spangled banner did," he said. "It gave way to a new solidarity that connects nameless strangers as friends, standing together, united and resolved against a common danger.

"You see flags waving in front yards all across America, and you see them on the right shoulder of every Soldier in the U.S. Army ... tonight we honor these stars and stripes again."

With that, Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) began to work their white-gloved hands over the flag, making 13 perfect folds, stepping back at each, re-tightening and folding until they reached the traditional blue triangle that defines the retired national emblem.