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Aug 22, 2006

Type:Tribute (for the living)
To Honor:Individual(s)
Location:, United States
The Story of the Three Firefighters Who Raised the American Flag -

World Trade Center Building Seven was about to collapse on Tuesday.

Firefighters from Engine 255 and Ladder 157 in Brooklyn had been digging in the rubble for survivors for
six grueling hours, when they got the call to immediately evacuate.

Firefighter Dan McWilliams from Ladder 157 headed out with the rest of his crew. It was then that the
35-year-old firefighter spotted a flag flying from a yacht docked behind the World Financial Center. He made
his way to the boat, rolled the flag up around its pole to be sure it didn't touch the ground, and carried the
pole back to the evacuation area.

As McWilliams passed his buddy and fellow 157 firefighter George Johnson, he slapped him on the shoulder.
"Gimme a hand, will ya, George?"

"I knew exactly what he was doing," Johnson, 36, said.

Then Billy Eisengrein of Rescue 2, another Brooklyn fire company, and McWilliams' childhood friend from
Staten Island, jumped in, "You need a hand?"

The three firefighters quickly found a perfect spot -- a single flagpole anchored in the rubble about 20 feet off
the ground on West Street.

They climbed a makeshift ramp so they could easily raise the flag in its new home. It was at that moment
that Record photographer Thomas E. Franklin spotted the three from a distance.

Only two days had passed since that moment. The World Trade Center death and chaos were still fresh in
the minds of McWilliams and Johnson as they sat in the noisy kitchen in the Flatbush firehouse recalling how
the three firefighter friends -- Johnson from Rockaway Beach, McWilliams from Long Island, and Eisengrein
from Staten Island -- acted as one.

"A big part of this is maintaining the unity of the whole team," McWilliams said.

His eyes filled with tears as he remembered the hellish day New York's firefighters experienced right after
the Twin Towers' collapse, and their lack of progress in finding survivors.

"Everybody just needed a shot in the arm," he said, pausing to regain his composure.

The photo was the shot seen round the world. It has run on many American newspaper front pages, including
the New York Post, the Baltimore Sun, and Providence Journal, and has been shown on network television.

McWilliams and Johnson said they didn't raise the flag to solicit personal attention. They didn't expect to get
any phone calls or comments from friends and family. They were unaware they were being photographed. It
was a spur-of-the-moment decision that started with McWilliams.

Though few firefighters remained in the evacuation area at that moment, Johnson said he recalls hearing
comments after the flag went up.

"A few guys yelled out 'good job' and 'way to go.' "

And although he hadn't given the hoisting much thought, McWilliams remembered, "Every pair of eyes that
saw that flag got a little brighter."

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Tuesday August 22, 2006, 3:33 am
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