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Henrico man’s 'Freedom Flag' could become federal symbol of 9/11

Posted at 6:37 PM, Jun 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 18:37:19-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va., — Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D-7th District) introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at honoring lives lost on September 11, 2001.

Spanberger, along with Rep. Peter King (R-New York), filed H.R. 7183 — the National Nine-Eleven Victims and Emergency Responders Flag of Remembrance, Gratitude, and Education for Tomorrow Act, or the National NEVER FORGET Act.

If signed into law, the bill would designate the Freedom Flag “as a national symbol of the nation’s commitment to honoring and remembering all those who lost their lives as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,” according to a release.

Freedom Flag.jpeg

The flag would then be flown at federal buildings including post offices, VA Hospitals, Capitol Hill, and the White House. The legislation would require the Freedom Flag to be flown each year on Patriot Day (September 11) and each subsequent day through the end of September.

The days following the 9/11 attacks, Richard Melito sketched a rendering of a flag on a napkin inside of his Henrico restaurant.

Richard Melito.jpeg

He drew ten symbols that help described the events of that horrific day.

“The goal for me was to make sure that all Americans never forget 9/11. I designed this flag as a symbol of remembrance and not to overdo the American Flag,” Melito explained.

Melito’s non-profit, the Freedom Flag Foundation, has since worked to educate children in schools about the events of 9/11.

“There are people now that are born who have no idea what September 11 is all about,” Melito stated.

Rep. Spanberger called Melito’s flag a “powerful, physical reminder of one of the darkest days in American history.”

“While we're talking about tragedies that are existing in the United States, I do think that there's an important value in honoring those we lost on September 11,” she told CBS 6. “In 2001, we were unified as Americans around our collective loss, and in 2020 we are again unified as Americans around our collective loss.”

Abigail Spanberger.jpeg

Twenty lawmakers, including all of Virginia’s representatives, have cosponsored the bill.

The meaning of the Freedom Flag is illustrated by the colors and symbols of the flag, including:

  • An old glory blue background symbolizing all Americans united together around the principle of freedom.
  • A white star symbolizing all who’ve lived and died for the cause of freedom.
  • Five white bars symbolizing the Pentagon and the organized protection of our freedom.
  • A top old glory red stripe symbolizing the blood shed by those who perished at the Pentagon and the crew and passengers killed on American Airlines Flight 77.
  • Two broad old glory red stripes symbolizing the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the blood shed by those who perished at the World Trade Center and on American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175.
  • A bottom old glory red stripe symbolizing the blood shed by the crew and passengers who perished on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
  • Three white stripes symbolizing the first responders who worked tirelessly during and after the terrorist attacks.

The Freedom Flag has been adopted by the Virginia Historical Society and received a proclamation as an official state symbol of remembrance by then-Governor Mark Warner.

The Henrico County Board of Supervisors granted approval for the construction of a monument of the flag near the intersection of Eastridge and North Parham Roads in the West End nearly a decade ago.

Melito said sales from flags and donations from individuals and corporations are helping the foundation reach its fundraising goals.

“Never Forget" was a message of unity expressed by all Americans in the days after September 11, 2001, and it is our hope that with the passage of the National NEVER FORGET Act, it will help current and future generations to ‘Never Forget,’” foundation board member Joshua Dickerson said.

For more information on the project and the Freedom Flag Foundation, click here.