‘It’s surreal’: American flag flown at ground zero journeys through Franklin County

  • Retired Holyoke firefighter Jordan Lemieux speaks during a short ceremony Thursday honoring the American flag that flew over the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11 at the Greenfield Fire Department’s temporary station. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The American flag that flew over the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11 is escorted into Greenfield for a ceremony at the Greenfield Fire Department’s temporary station on Thursday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Retired Holyoke firefighter Jordan Lemieux and William Hearn of the Patriot Guard Riders don white cloth gloves as they hold up the American flag that flew over the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Emergency responders pose with the American flag that flew over the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11 at the Greenfield Fire Department’s temporary station on Thursday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The American flag that flew over the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11 is displayed at the Greenfield Fire Department’s temporary station on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/18/2022 6:09:07 PM

GREENFIELD — An American flag that flew over the World Trade Center rubble for nearly two months following the 9/11 attacks visited Greenfield on Thursday, getting put on display at the city’s temporary fire station before moving on to Bernardston to begin a three-day journey to Kittery, Maine.

The flag was escorted into Greenfield by the city’s Fire Department as well as several Patriot Guard Riders so it could be honored in a brief ceremony as a symbol of American patriotism and perseverance. It arrived at the department’s temporary 53 Hope St. station at 9:15 a.m. and was unfolded onto a table.

Jordan Lemieux, a former Holyoke firefighter, was tasked with overseeing the flag’s escort. He briefly addressed the roughly 50 people in attendance on Thursday, asking anyone interested in touching the flag to wear white gloves and to avoid touching the flag’s white border.

“It’s been, probably, one of the biggest honors of my life, to … have charge of it for such a long time,” he said in an interview after the ceremony.

Lemieux said he planned to retrieve the flag at 6 a.m. Friday to get it to Bernardston’s Cushman Park, where it will begin a journey to Maine for the New England Run for the Fallen, established by Honor and Remember Inc., a Virginia-based nonprofit dedicated to recognizing the sacrifice of America’s fallen service members and their families.

Lemieux, who retired from the Holyoke Fire Department in 2014 following a 32-year career, accepted the flag at the state line in West Stockbridge from a New York crew on Aug. 7 and has supervised its escort since then. Deerfield’s Police and Fire departments escorted the flag and its brigade from Yankee Candle to The Wok restaurant, where the Greenfield Fire Department picked up the escort. The flag was transported on a white sheet on the dashboard of the only fire truck still in the Greenfield Fire Department’s fleet that was in operation on Sept. 11, 2001. Lemieux brings the flag home for safekeeping when it is not on display.

Lemieux told the crowd the flag was hoisted amid the rubble a few days following the terrorist attacks and was removed on Nov. 2, 2001, after a cadaver dog detected possible human remains underneath it. He explained it has been in Baghdad, Iraq, for several missions and was on site when U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein in 2003. Lemieux responded to assist at ground zero on Sept. 14 and stayed for about three weeks, returning a couple of other times.

“And I can’t tell you how many funerals,” he said in an interview.

After the ceremony, various emergency personnel and members of the public posed for photos with the flag. Alex Cooley, a captain with the Greenfield Fire Department, referred to the ceremony as humbling.

“It’s surreal, too. I think it’s such a big part of anyone’s experience who’s a firefighter,” he said, adding that he was a high school student in Amherst on Sept. 11, 2001. “It’s part of the sacrifice of the 343 firefighters who went into the towers that day (and) played a large role in my inspiration to try to live up to that standard through a career of service. So it’s very humbling and (I) feel extremely fortunate to be able to be here to witness this.”

Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner said she marveled at the care with which the flag was handled.

“I was impressed with the solemnness of (the ceremony), but at the same time I felt that people were genuinely interested in expressing their own interest in seeing something like that,” Wedegartner said. “It was pretty moving for me.”

The mayor recalled walking her dog when the airliners hit the World Trade Center towers. She said she got home and her husband, Richard, who was watching the events unfold, said he “may be looking at the end of the world as we know it.” Wedegartner watched the second tower collapse in real time.

Thursday’s ceremony also consisted of a reciting of the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. Lemieux also held up a Christian cross he said was carved out of a piece of marble from the twin towers. He said the marble travels with the flag.

Brian Miller, run director for the Massachusetts chapter of Honor and Remember, said Lemieux has done an excellent job escorting the flag.

“I couldn’t ask for a better guy to lead the group,” he said.

The flag is expected to be retired to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum on Nov. 2, 2026 — what will be the 25th anniversary of the date it was removed from between the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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