by the History Channel and one by law enforcement authorities. In the end, a combination of forensic science and DNA concluded it was the flag and it has since been put on display at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Panagopulos said he filmed his interviews in Manhattan about a year ago with the intention of airing the hourlong show last year. A delay in the airing, however, left time for producers to include the newfound DNA evidence of ground zero dust found on the tape of the discovered flag rigging and in the process, Panagopulos’ testimony was cut to a few shorter soundbites.
“Before the DNA testing was completed, I think it relied more upon my testimony,” he said this week, noting that because he’s worked at sea he has a strong knowledge of flag rigging to go along with his experience in authenticating artifacts.
Panagopulos said he studied the halyard, fixing devices and electrical tape compared to photo enlargements of the iconic Thomas Franklin photo during his taping.
“Nobody else could have rigged the flag up this badly,” he said. “I don’t think it could have been as convincingly copied. It all adds up. I was very certain this was the flag and I estimated it to be worth millions, but it’s really priceless.”
Panagopulos was about 20 miles away at his Stamford, Conn., office when the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001. He said he could stand outside his door and see the smoke and the dust rising all day. While he didn’t know anyone who died on 9/11, he did have friends who were in the building that day and got out, and he worked in the South Tower for a couple months earlier in his life.
Those connections made his participation in the History Channel program all that more memorable, Panagopulos said.
“It was very special and satisfying to be a part of such a program,” he said. “I’m glad that the flag ended up where it belongs and not in the hands of a collector.”
While there are no TV airings of the program scheduled currently, those interested can watch ”America’s 9/11 Flag: Rise From the Ashes” on www.history. com.