June 14, 2002
— NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe led a delegation of astronauts in a special presentation of colors at the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York Friday (June 14).
An American flag recovered from the World Trade Center in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks returned home after traveling nearly 5 million miles (8 million km) in space on the space shuttle Endeavour during the STS-108 mission in December.
The flag, damaged but intact, was pulled from the debris by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). To honor the victims, families and those who helped in the recovery efforts on and after September 11, NASA flew the banner as part of its Flags for Heroes and Families campaign.
"The tradition of carrying American flags into space dates back to the very beginning of this historic agency. From the surface of the Moon to the unchartered regions of our galaxy, NASA has flown the American flag as a patriotic symbol of truth, honor and justice. It is appropriate that we present this flag back to the city of New York on Flag Day," said O'Keefe.
The large flag, along with other commemorative badges, patches and other items were taken into space with nearly 6,000 smaller flags that will be given to victims' families from New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Along with O'Keefe, astronauts Frank Culbertson, Dominic Gorie, Linda Godwin and Michael Massimino helped with presenting the artifacts to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki, as well as representatives of the New York police and fire departments and New York/New Jersey port authority.
"This precious flag symbolizes the sacrifice and courage of the thousands of News Yorkers and Americans who perished that fateful day. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I am proud to welcome the flag back to the New York City to honor the innocent men and women who were working in the towers on September 11, and the countless heroes whose spirit and strength has helped carry us through this horrific ordeal," said Governor Pataki.
Dom Gorie was commander of STS-108 and Godwin was a mission specialist on board space shuttle Endeavour on the mission. Massimino has family ties to the New York Fire Department and was aboard space shuttle Columbia during STS-109's Hubble Space Telescope visit in March.
"From space, the astronauts get a unique view of our home planet and the destruction was clearly visible from orbit. The events of September 11 deeply affected them, as they did the entire nation. We hope this campaign is seen as a fitting tribute from America's space program as the courageous people of New York move forward," said Administrator O'Keefe.